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The Feds are in New London

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published March 25. 2012 4:00AM

I will say this about New London's Mayor Finizio: He doesn't back down from a fight or shy away from a lawsuit.

On Thursday night, the NAACP, during its second meeting in two months called to discuss complaints against city police and city procedures, vowed to continue fighting to get Al Mayo, the black firefighter Finizio fired in December, his job back.

NAACP officials also disclosed Thursday that they went to Washington last week to meet with U.S. Rep. Conyers of Michigan and his staff and national NAACP officials. They said the people they met with there were appalled by the complaints of racial profiling and police brutality in New London that they presented.

They said Conyers is considering holding House hearings here in Connecticut to showcase the problem of racial profiling,as he pursues a national law against the practice.

The NAACP also has been meeting with lawyers with the U.S. Justice Department, who they say are investigating the complaints against New London police as well as the Mayo firing.

Speaking of Mayo Thursday, Connecticut NAACP President Scott X. Esdaile said the organization will not give up the fight until Mayo gets hired back.

Mayo was the first black firefighter hired by the city in more than 30 years. The promotion to deputy chief of one of the few minority department members, black battalion chief Henry Kydd, by all accounts an excellent firefighter and department leader, was announced by the mayor on the morning of the NAACP town meeting.

Finizio said Friday the timing was inadvertent. So was the city's announcement Thursday of the firing of a city police officer who shot an unarmed black man, Finizio said.

The timing of the disclosure of the firing of the police officer accused of planting drugs on a black man, the day before the last NAACP meeting, also was coincidental, the mayor said.

Asked about Mayo Friday, Finizio said he won't compromise his principles to fill a public safety position with someone not qualified. He said giving Mayo his job back would be the easy way out for him.

Finizio cited some of the reasons for the firing, including Mayo's driving record and a recent speeding ticket. He said he has consulted with city attorneys and a video that shows Mayo holding up a middle finger while in uniform at the firefighting academy - something Mayo says white recruits also did, playfully fooling around - is evidence enough to support the firing in any lawsuit that might be filed.

Lawsuit? Bring it on, seems to be an answer often given by the lawyer mayor.

As for the federal investigation into the New London police, the mayor said he would "welcome an outside review."

So here come the feds and more lawsuits and maybe more unfortunate national publicity for the city.

I thought a mayor was supposed to put a finger in those kinds of dike leaks.

You have to give Finizio high marks, though, for facing things head on. He is willing to explain his reasons, however thin, for firing Mayo. And he is endlessly loyal to a police chief who has presided for almost three years over a department that could become another national symbol of embarrassment for the city.

You have to give failing grades, though, to two longtime black political leaders in the city who most certainly bear some of the responsibility for the woeful lack of minority hires for the fire department and the alleged pattern of racial profiling by the police.

City Councilor Wade Hyslop and Jane Glover, a former mayor, now Finizio's chief administrative officer, were invited to attend Thursday's NAACP town meeting and explain their endorsement of Finizio's firing of Mayo.

Neither showed up. Esdaile, the state NAACP president, made note of their absence during the program.

Shame on Hyslop and Glover.

Even Chief Ackley turned up to hear the complaints against city police first hand.

The city councilor and city's chief administrative officer, however, just hid.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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