11/15/2007

Noose found under Conn. patrol car

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A hangman-type noose — a symbol of racist lynchings that sparked controversy in Stratford and elsewhere nationally over the last several months — was discovered Wednesday under a black police officer's patrol car.

The noose was discovered under the police cruiser parked outside the department's Community Services Division on Sylvan Avenue, said police Lt. James Viadero.

The black officer, Sgt. Joe Anne Simmons-Meekins, discovered the noose when she arrived for work in the morning, Viadero said.

"At this point, we don't know what the motive for its placement was or who it was directed at," he said. The incident is being investigated by both the Police Department's Detective Bureau and the Office of Internal Affairs.

Simmons-Meekins is married to Theophilus Meekins, a retired city police officer and the president of the East End Community Council. She declined to comment.

Meekins said: "Anytime you see a hangman's noose it's a racial issue. A hangman's noose is a symbol of hatred."

Meekins said he didn't want to comment on the incident further until he had a chance to talk to Police Chief Bryan Norwood.

In 1990, Simmons-Meekins, filed a discrimination complaint in federal court against the Police Department, claiming she was the victim of harassment by white officers. A special master later ruled in her favor and recommended that then-Chief Thomas Sweeney be suspended for three days with pay and the city pay $10,000 to the

Bridgeport Guardians, an organization of minority police officers.

The hangman's noose has long been a symbol of intimidation to black Americans.

Nooses have been in the public spotlight since September when they were hung in a tree outside a high school in Jena, La. The furor intensified when six black teenagers, later nicknamed the Jena 6, were charged with attacking a white classmate.

Last month, a Halloween decoration at a Stratford house featuring a hanging man, with a noose wrapped around its neck, drew complaints that it was racist and a demonstration was threatened. The confrontation was defused when the homeowners agreed to take the decoration down.

Anyone with information about the noose incident is asked to call the Police Department's Detective Bureau at 581-5201.

Copyright 2007 The Connecticut Post

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