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Investigation underway into racially charged letter at Bridgeport police

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BRIDGEPORT – A racially charged letter at the police department is being investigated by the state police, according to the mayor’s office.

The letter said, in part, that black police officers belong in the toilet. It showed up in several Bridgeport police officers’ mailboxes last week and some cops think it’s an inside job.

The letter, which was titled “White Power,” stems from a highly publicized case involving three Bridgeport police officers who took part in what’s become known as the Beardsley Stomp.

On May 20, 2011, two Bridgeport cops were caught on tape kicking a suspect, who they had just shot with a stun gun. The third officer, Clive Higgins, came rolling up in his car after the initial confrontation and was also taped kicking the suspect, who was laying on his stomach. Higgins, a 12-year veteran of the department who was the lone black officer involved, was the only officer acquitted of brutality charges last month.

The other two officers,  Elson Morales and Joseph Lawlor, pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanors. They resigned from the department and face up to a year in jail.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s spokesperson, Brett Broesder, released a statement that said:

Any allegation of racial discrimination that seeks to divide our police department or our community will not be tolerated. If the investigation turns up any wrongdoing, swift, fair, just and immediate action will be taken against those guilty of wrongdoing. Racial discrimination will not be tolerated. Period. We have yet to see a physical copy of the letter in question, so we cannot comment on it directly. But, we have been informed that the state police have launched an investigation into a letter with racially-charged language at the Bridgeport Police Department. Right now, there’s an active investigation at the state level, so everything is in question: its authenticity, the motive and every part of the development and distribution of it.

The Bridgeport Guardians, a civil rights group made up of 53 minority members of the Bridgeport Police, held a press conference Wednesday morning to denounce the letter.

“It brings you back to the ’60s, the civil rights movement and to the Jim Crow laws and it’s very disheartening for us to be set back at least 40, 50 years,” said officer Johanna Angelo.

Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett became aware of the letter yesterday. State police have taken over the investigation.

“Anybody who’s been a part of wrong doing in this situation we will take swift, immediate and fair action against,” said Broesder.

The reason some within the department believe an insider distributed the hate letter was that it was written on official police department letterhead, which is not available to the general public.

The letter is just one of several recent threatening letters directed at the Bridgeport Police Department. Last month, Lt. Lonnie Blackwell, the president of the Bridgeport Guardians, received one directed at him.

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