Nine months after a racist letter was circulated in the Bridgeport Police Department, two investigations have found what authorities say was a conspiracy to falsely portray racial hatred in the department.
A black former officer, who claimed to be a target of the letter, was arrested Wednesday and the head of the police training academy and president of a minority police organization was placed on paid leave.
Clive Higgins, who was cleared by a federal jury earlier this year of police brutality charges despite a video showing him stomping a prone suspect in Beardsley Park in 2011, surrendered at State Police Troop I in Bethany on Wednesday morning. He was charged with second-degree falsely reporting an incident, a misdemeanor, and released on a promise to appear in court pending arraignment in state Superior Court on Dec. 16.
Higgins, a 13-year veteran, resigned from the department in July after being questioned by investigators.
Lt. Lonnie Blackwell, president of the Bridgeport Guardians, was relieved of his command of the training academy and placed on administrative leave with pay by Police Chief Joseph Gaudett pending possible firing.
Higgins, 50, told both the city Office of Internal Affairs and the State Police that Blackwell told him to write the letter.
“It’s disappointing,” said Sgt. Charles Paris, head of the police union. “But hopefully this will clarify some questions about our membership. We have hard-working men and women in the department and our sole purpose is to protect the residents of the city of Bridgeport.”
The racist letter was typed on city letterhead and distributed through the Police Department and began and ended with “White Power,” a term coined by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party in the late 1960s and ’70s. It complained that Higgins didn’t belong in the Police Department.
It went on to make negative comments about African-American officers.
Gaudett requested that the state police investigate where the letter came from after the local chapter of the NAACP demanded a probe.
“The NAACP will schedule a meeting for further discussion with the Bridgeport Police Department and do more data searching before we comment,” said George Mintz, head of the local chapter of the NAACP. “At this point, we only know what has been published in the newspaper.”