Federal Judge Ends 50 Year Federal Consent Decree

HARTFORD, Conn. — U.S. District Court Judge Kari Dooley has ended 50 years of federal oversight of police in Hartford, Connecticut. The relief was met with opposition saying the agency still has not hired enough minority officers to reflect the city’s black and Hispanic populations at a time when hiring police officers of any race is more difficult than ever.

The U.S. District Judge for the District of of Connecticut issued a 10-page ruling late Friday saying the plaintiffs failed to prove the Hartford Police Department was violating any part of the original 1973 consent decree agreement or revisions made to it in 2010, the Stamford Advocate reported.

Hence, Judge Dooley approved the city’s request to dissolve the consent decree, which was to have ended in 2014, four years after the 2010 revisions were made, but was later extended.

The 1973 consent decree was one of the longest running federal oversight directives in the nation. It originated due to a 1969 civil rights lawsuit against police in the city by several Hartford residents. The lawsuit accused officers of inflicting several acts of violence, intimidation and humiliation upon Hartford citizens due to their race and ethnicity, according to the news outlet.

Lawyers and activist groups opposing the dissolution — including Hartford NAACP — voiced opposition and filed court papers in October in an effort to keep the consent decree in place.

However, the judge rejected their arguments and noted police officials have provided evidence of their efforts to increase the recruitment and promotion of minority officers.

Sydney Schulman, a Hartford lawyer for the plaintiffs who has been involved in the case since 1969, said that while the department has increased recruiting of minorities, many of them have had trouble passing police academy tests, according to the Stamford Advocate.

Corrie Betts, president of the Greater Hartford NAACP, said the department hasn’t done enough to change those tests so more black and Hispanic officer candidates get hired.

Police officials said in court papers that numerous reforms have been made at the department, and the consent decree and federal oversight were no longer necessary.

“The conditions present in 1969 that led to the federal jurisdiction are no longer present,” city attorneys wrote. “Simply put, over 50 years of litigation has exhausted any basis for continuing jurisdiction over this matter.”