BERLIN — Police Commissioner Bob Peters resigned Tuesday amid backlash in response to published reports that he was recorded making racist remarks to other residents.
The backlash included a statement from the Berlin police union calling the remarks attributed to Peters “ugly and reprehensible” and that they are “are patently absurd and in no way reflect the attitudes and values of the women and men of our organization.”
When reached by the Record-Journal, Peters had no comment. But Mayor Mark Kaczynski, a Republican, said Peters denied a New Britain Herald report that he was recorded telling other residents that Berlin’s police officers are taught to use deadly force toward African Americans. According to the Herald’s report, he also used inflammatory language while talking about homosexuals and immigrants.
The Herald, which obtained a recording from an anonymous source, also reported that the New Britain state’s attorney is investigating. The Record-Journal has not been able to independently confirm the existence of the recording or the investigation.
Kaczynski said the language would be out of character for Peters.
“It’s an audio — nobody knows where it came from,” he said. “Nobody knows its authenticity or anything … I just don’t like convicting people based on a newspaper article.”
Still, Kaczynski said the language and content described in the report is “certainly nothing we want to hear. There’s no debate on that.”
“My Democratic co-councilors and I were very relieved that he resigned,” said Councilor JoAnn Angelico-Stetson. “The majority of the people were outraged by it, not only at his words but by the lack of response….”
Police Commission Chairman Paul Eshoo said Peters had pushed the department to hire officers from a minority background last year and credited him with the three people of color becoming officers.
“I don't think he should resign, but that's a choice he made,” he said. Eschoo said Peters wasn’t planning to seek reelection, but suspects “he just thinks if he stays it will carry on and on.”
While other officials came to Peters’ defense, the police union said it released its statement last week due to concerns that the reported comments could affect officers’ ability to do their jobs.
“The difficulties inherent in our profession have grown over the last decade,” the union said in the statement. “As a result, a dangerous job has become even more so. The last thing we need are the misguided ranting of an individual pretending to speak on behalf of our officers.”
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