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NAACP calls for federal probe of racist e-mails sent to troopers, police probe under way

The state chapter of the NAACP called Thursday for a federal
investigation of possible civil rights violations after members of the
Connecticut State Police received racist e-mails.

State police have opened an internal investigation into the
e-mails, which were sent to the director of the state forensic lab and
employees he oversees, including troopers and civilians. The e-mails originated
from a private e-mail address, and investigators were in the process of
confirming who sent it.

A photograph and video were e-mailed to private accounts in
February. The photo is of a black man lying on a street surrounded by pieces of
watermelon and a bucket of chicken, while the video shows a young white girl
repeating racial slurs with the encouragement of off-camera adults.

The materials, which surfaced Tuesday, were sent earlier
this year, about a week after Sgt. Andrew Crumbie was replaced as head of the
lab by Lt. David Rice. Crumbie, who is black, has alleged that racial
discrimination was behind the decision to replace him with Rice, who is white.

State NAACP officials said Thursday that they have been
contacted by Crumbie and several other black troopers concerned about racism
and discrimination in the department. All of those troopers have filed
discrimination lawsuits or complaints against state police within the past five

The NAACP wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil
rights division Thursday, requesting an investigation into the allegations made
by the black troopers.

The organization also called for talks with Gov. M. Jodi
Rell about diversity within the agency and her plans to address the problems.
They added that they planned a request under Freedom of Information laws for
the work e-mails of the five staff members who received the racist messages and
the sender, whom they said is an agency employee.

“I think that the release of these e-mails has made it
clear that we have a very, very, very serious problem in the Department of
Public Safety,” said Scot X. Esdaile, president of the state NAACP.

“We have individuals who are supposed to be keeping us
safe in the state of Connecticut
that are really, really letting us down,” he said. “It is deplorable,
it’s despicable and it’s downright disgraceful. It’s extremely important that
we get to the root of the problem.”

A message seeking comment was left Thursday with the Public
Safety Department, which is headed up by Commissioner John Danaher.

A spokesman for Rell said the governor has repeatedly stated
that racism in any form is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in a state

“If they exist, they will be rooted out and
eliminated,” Rell spokesman Chris Cooper said Thursday.

She emphasized that earlier in the day while addressing new
troopers at a graduation ceremony, Cooper said.

“Governor Rell has always held the overarching belief
that government’s institutions must stand for fairness and justice which are
the very foundation of government,” Cooper said.

He said the governor knows that Danaher shares her views and
takes the allegations seriously.

Officials at the Department of Justice said they had not
received the NAACP’s request Thursday and could not comment.

Crumbie said Thursday that he believes there is an
atmosphere of tolerance of racism within the Public Safety Department. He has
been transferred to the state fire marshal’s office, but said he is on leave
pending the outcome of his discrimination cases.

The e-mails were made public Tuesday after one of the
recipients, Trooper Neverill Coleman, who is black and works at the lab, told
his supervisor, Vance said. It was not clear why Coleman waited five months to
come forward. He did not return a message left at his office.

State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said Wednesday that
investigators are looking into whether Rice was aware of the e-mails. State
police declined to release the names of the other troopers and staff who are
under investigation, including the person who sent the e-mails.

Messages were left with Rice seeking comment.

Crumbie filed two complaints with the Commission on Human
Rights and Opportunities last month. In his complaints, which remain pending,
he accuses the Department of Public Safety and M. Lisa Moody, the governor’s
chief of staff, of discrimination.

Crumbie, who was chief of staff for former Public Safety
Commissioner Leonard C. Boyle before heading the forensic laboratory, claims
that derogatory words were used about his race by high-ranking state police
officers. He also said the state police had a history of “unfavorable
treatment by DPS of minority employees.”

Crumbie also claims that Moody punished him with a demotion
after he refused to re-donate $1,000 to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s campaign. The
governor’s office has said that Moody denies the allegations.

“The claims against the governor’s office are
patently false,” Cooper said. “They are without merit and it is
important to note that these absurd allegations are exactly that claims made by
an individual who is seeking a financial settlement in a personnel matter.”

– Associated Press

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