Stratford diversity training starting
Connecticut Post Online (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
August 18, 2006
STRATFORD -- The first in a series of cultural diversity training sessions for town employees kicks off next Thursday, with top town officials -- including Mayor James R. Miron, Police Chief Michael Imbro and Fire Chief Ron Nattrass -- among 25 department heads and supervisors expected to attend.
The sessions, planned for all of Stratford's 500 employees over the next year, are being held in response to simmering racial tensions in the town's South End, sparked by a March 21 altercation that led to complaints of racism and police brutality.
It also prompted an anti-racism rally in front of Town Hall last month attended by nearly 400 people, and could lead to probes by the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice.
"Obviously, you have to start somewhere, and this initiative is very important to help make the government closer and more accountable to the people," Miron said Thursday.
The initial daylong session at Homewood Suites in Stratford comes five months after Councilman Alvin O'Neal, D-2, and 15-year-old Titasheen Mitchell, both black, were arrested during a melee that erupted outside a Woodend Road storefront in the South End, a largely minority community.
O'Neal and Mitchell contend that Officer David Gugliotti, who is white, used excessive force in making the arrests.
While Gugliotti was exonerated after an internal affairs investigation by police, Miron quickly announced all town employees would be ordered to attend cultural diversity training sessions, including the 100-member Police Department. The mayor said that while he doesn't believe there is any major racial problem in Stratford, "I'm sure we have employees who can benefit from the training."
But some officials disagree.
"I haven't changed my stance and will not attend sessions that are an insult to town employees, particularly the Police Department," said Republican Registrar of Voters Louis DeCilo. "This is just political correctness."
Police Union President Shawn Farmer reiterated Thursday that he and union leaders believe the training is not needed and is a waste of taxpayer money. "As part of state mandates, we take diversity training sessions, so this is not something we need," Farmer said. Meanwhile, an informal survey of the region found no other towns or cities mandate cultural diversity training for all its municipal employees.