The headlines blared: “Hispanics demand police resignation over racial slurs.” The story goes that professor William McDonald, a graduate faculty member of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, was brought in to speak to Bridgeport police in Connecticut to give an lecture on ethics. The Bridgeport Police Hispanic Society alleges that he used the racial slur “spic” over and over in front of Latino officers who were uncomfortable and aired their complaints. The organization is now calling for assistant police chief James Nardozzi, who it says invited McDonald and stood idly by as he allegedly made inappropriate remarks, to resign.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, McDonald blasted the allegations, defended himself, and said the real reason some police are trying to oust Nardozzi is because he has been successful in his efforts to clamp down on overtime abuses.
“The allegations are completely ridiculous as any of the more than 80 participants can attest,” McDonald wrote. He explained that he used the word “spic” while talking about issues with East Haven police in Connecticut, who were accused of racial profiling and harassment and led to the arrest of four officers.
“In one lecture, while discussing the recent scandal in the East Haven Police Department as an example of unethical decision making I used the word ‘Spic’ to stress and exaggerate the thought process of the individuals involved in the egregious abuse of basic human rights. At the end of that discussion I apologized to the participants for using the term and explained my purpose.”
Juan Santiago Jr., president of the Hispanic Society, told GreenwichTime.com that the slurs happened and officers — 100 of whom are Hispanic out of 427 in the department — were offended.
“Right now we’re not asking for an apology,” he said. “We want him to resign or for the administration to fire him. How could (Nardozzi) not say anything?”
Santiago, a police officer, said he was not in attendance but was told about the training session by angry members of the police force.
When reached for comment by BuzzFeed, Santiago did not respond to McDonald’s statements.
McDonald went on to add that much of the information in his lectures was well-received.
“As a credit to the many dedicated Bridgeport Police supervisors, the lectures were lively and appear to have been well received,” he wrote. “Some participants stayed afterwards to continue the discussion, and others have exchanged emails with me since on various issues discussed.”
But he defended himself against allegations that he might be racist or insensitive.
“I have a lifetime commitment to human rights, come from a mixed-race family, and am the father of an adopted 8-year-old Afro-Caribbean child,” he wrote.
McDonald added that the real issue is the “attack aimed at Dr. Nardozzi through me for difficult decisions he has had to make regarding overtime payments to police officers.”
Nardozzi was hired in November 2012 and the police department projected it could be $2 million over the current $5.4 million overtime budget for 2012-2013, according to The Connecticut Post. Mayor Bill Finch pointed to keying in on overtime costs, when he hired the assistant police chief.
“Dr. Nardozzi will be an excellent addition to the force, working with the Chief to rein in overtime and reduce expenses while ensuring the officers are deployed in the most efficient manner,” he said at the time.
The police chiefs proceeded to target abuses in sick leave and Nardozzi suspended the overtime privilege of eight officers and 26 others were warned.
Finch has since responded to the allegations against Nardozzi.
“It has been brought to my attention that there was language used by a non-city employee conducting a police training class that was offensive to many of the officers present,” Finch said to Greenwich Time. “This is a very serious allegation, and it goes without saying that my administration does not condone offensive language of any kind. With that said, I will refrain from further comment until all the facts have been presented.”
For his part, Nardozzi hinted that only a portion of the force is upset with him.
When told that police officers were upset by the incident, he gave a slight smile and said, “Some of them are.”