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Controversy brews after New Haven assistant police chief allegedly makes derogatory comment

Fox 61 - Local News
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The word "mope" is causing a lot of controversy, even landing New Haven Assistant Police Chief Luiz Cassanova with a one-day suspension.

Cassanova's attorney, Norm Pattis, said the word "mope" -- which has traditionally been defined as someone who is dejected or in low spirits, but has taken on the secondary meaning of a criminal up to no good or a person presenting themselves as uneducated -- was thought to have been used in reference to how a black officer was wearing his hat.

A group of clergyman and retired police officers said the term is derogatory when used in this setting, and they held a press conference to voice their concerns on Tuesday.

Revered Boise Kimber said, "In law enforcement, the connotation is of an uneducated, unsavory individual who does more to distract from than to contribute to the good of society. Used in this meaning, it's derogatory, belittling, and thoroughly dehumanizing."

Pastor Donald Morris described how the officer was feeling when he was called a "mope" to his face by Cassanova. "He said he was hurt, he felt intimidated by the mere fact that one of his supervisors wold speak to him in that manner," said Morris.

"Mope is a term that someone just isn't getting it done. Cassanova had ordered the hats for the department. They're supposed to wear them, but look professional. He didn't think his subordinate did," said Pattis.

The group of clergymen also called Pattis to the carpet for referring to Mayor Toni Harp as a "mope" in his blog about the controversy. Pattis said, "If they don't understand a rhetorical piece of humor, God help them."

The clergymen feel this situation has left a divisive feeling in the department and they're calling on Mayor Harp to name Interim Chief Anthony Campbell as the permanent chief. There's been talk that Cassanova may also want the job. FOX 61 asked Pattis about Cassanova's aspirations, and Pattis responded,"If he does, he's not telling me."

Mayor Harp's office wouldn't comment about Cassanova's suspension, but the department issued a statement Monday night saying that Cassnova was suspended for one day without pay, to be served before the end of the year. A spokesperson says Harp hopes to have a permanent chief named by mid-February.

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