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Clergy Step Forward for "Justice and Healing" in East Haven Controversy

February 2, 2012

EAST HAVEN, Conn. - On Wednesday, a new interfaith, interrracial coalition outlined steps it says can resolve the police-abuse scandal in East Haven. Members of Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, or CONECT, spoke at Saint Rose of Lima Church in New Haven. Later, at a separate news conference, clergy from East Haven made their own call for healing.

CONECT member Rabbi Robert Orkand of Temple Israel, Westport, says the first step should be for the state attorney's office to review every conviction since 2008 that was based on an arrest by any of the four indicted officers.

"We believe that convictions based on arrests founded on racial prejudice and misconduct by the East Haven Police Department should not be allowed to stand, and that the state attorney has an obligation to vacate all convictions resulting from the police breaking the law."

An hour after the rabbi's announcement, five clergy from East Haven announced they will be leading dialogues on racial understanding and justice within each of their congregations.

The Rev. Karen Gronback Johnson of the Old Stone Church, UCC, explains how the dialogues will work.

"They will be confined to our faith communities at this point, and they will be intentional. They won't just be a potluck supper - let's all just sit together. We will be intentionally leading people in dialogue."

Her parish is divided among those who support the police and Mayor Joe Maturo, and those who don't, she says.

Rabbi Orkand says CONECT also wants the East Haven Board of Police Commissioners to immediately adopt the recommendations of the Police Executive Research Forum and the Department of Justice.

"Specifically, we call upon the board to follow the recommendations concerning community involvement, use of force and the disciplining of officers."

The third CONECT demand is that the state body that certifies all police officers investigate whether any of the East Haven officers should be decertified.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT