New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Union: Cops won’t become ‘political scapegoats’ in review board process

- By Ben Lambert william.lambert @hearstmedi­

NEW HAVEN — As the Civilian Review Board reviews a use of force by a New Haven officer in January, the police union will fight to “ensure our members don’t become political scapegoats,” President Florencio Cotto said.

Cotto, leader of Elm City Local, issued a statement on the CRB’s recent decision to continue reviewing a use of force by Officer Justin Cole, who was with Officer Ashley McKernan and Officer in Training David DeRubeis as they responded to an office space provider’s request for an eviction at the Connecticu­t Financial Center Jan. 29. The officers were cleared by the department.

“The rank and file want to see fairness and consistenc­y in the Internal affairs process. The use of the CRB, created as a political prop is the direct opposite of that goal,” Cotto said in the statement. “Rather than allowing internal investigat­ors to follow the facts, and not political considerat­ions or emotions, this so called ‘board’ is chasing the news cycle and once again making it harder for cops to do their job.”

“The Police Union will continue to fight to ensure our members don’t become political scapegoats,” Cotto said in the statement.

Cole hit Shawn Marshall three times during the arrest at the Connecticu­t Financial Center, according to police. Police officials wrote in a report to the review board that the use of force was concluded to be “reasonable and not excessive,” noting it had been reviewed by a use of force expert outside the department.

The city’s Civilian Review Board, however, decided to do a further review of the Police Department’s internal investigat­ion into the case, according to CRB member Richard Crouse.

Crouse said he forwarded a request for comment on Cotto’s statement to CRB Chairman Samuel Ross-Lee and Vice Chairman Anne Marie Rivera-Berrios Monday.

A message seeking comment was left for Mayor Justin Elicker.

About the conclusion­s of the investigat­ion, the Police Department said in the report to the Civilian Review Board that, “body-worn camera footage showed that the officers responded to 157 Church Street for a harassment complaint. Upon arrival, they received a counter complaint that the caller was disruptive and trespassin­g in other office areas and his service agreement was terminated.”

“They attempted to deescalate the situation by carrying the individual­s bags out to the main lobby after he voluntaril­y agreed to leave,” the report to the Civilian Review Board says. “They also attempted to de-escalate the situation for approximat­ely one-hour by speaking with the individual, offering to document any complaint he had and by praying with him.”

Marshall has said he had the right to remain in the building, and that he had called officers to respond there. He has said he had a contract to be in the building.

Cole wrote in his police report that an office space provider at the building had an agreement to provide office space for Marshall but voided the agreement based on his alleged “disruptive behavior.”

The office space provider and Marshall disagreed about whether he had been provided notice, according to Cole’s report.

Cole, McKernan and DeRubeis spoke and worked through the call for more than an hour, helping Marshall carry his belongings to the lobby, talking with him as they sought to usher him out of the building, the report says. Emails seeking comment were sent to all three officers.

After a repeated attempt to take his report in the lobby, the officers eventually moved to arrest Marshall. During the arrest, Marshall allegedly kicked Cole, who then punched Marshall “several times in the head area,” the report submitted to the Civilian Review Board says.

Marshall previously has said that his reaction to the incident was clear in the police body cam videos, noting what he said was his evident pain.

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