When a New York City police officer pulled over a pair of black men, he said it was because they were not wearing their seat belts. When he realized one of those men was “Lethal Weapon” star Danny Glover, he let them go on their way.
Glover spoke Wednesday at Albertus Magnus College about his experience with racial profiling and jokingly said the officer must have had “really good vision” to spot a beltless Glover in the car at night. As part of the Community Justice Dialogue Project, Glover joined New Haven high school students, police officers, and city officials in an all-day series of events addressing racial profiling.
Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the project aimed to promote open discourse on racial profiling. Project leaders said they want to bring together parts of the community that do not normally interact — like citizens and police officers — in order to develop a plan to fight racial profiling in the greater New Haven area.
Edward B. Harris, a conciliation specialist in the Justice Department’s Boston office, explained the federal government’s role in the project.
“New Haven was chosen to be one of 15 communities nationwide to receive the grant,” Harris said. “Our role and mandate is to work with the community to help resolve conflicts that might arise based on race, color or national origin.”
The Community Justice Dialogue Project has already formed a regional advisory board, trained volunteer facilitators for its planned dialogue groups, and conducted pilot discussions.
“A chance to talk about racial profiling sets the stage for real change,” said Cynthia Joyce, acting executive program director of the coordinating group, Community Mediation, Inc.
As part of the festivities, a youth forum allowed students from area high schools to talk with Glover about their own experiences and question him about his.
Though one of the chief aims of Wednesday’s program was to involve a diverse array of members of the community, some New Haven police officers found it useful as well.
“It is very advantageous to be involved in a group like this to leave the lines of communication open between the police department and the community,” officer Dan Picagli said.
New Haven Police Capt. Gerald Antunes said he was thrilled that Glover was able to attend the event.
“It’s terrific that he’s here because he was a victim of profiling in New York, so he understands from the victim’s point of view what can happen and how as a person you can be offended and degraded by profiling,” Antunes said.
Antunes also said that profiling of the sort Glover experienced is not limited to urban areas like New York and New Haven.
New Haven Chief Administrative Officer Karen Walton ’89, who oversees several city organizations including the New Haven Police Department, said the Community Justice Dialogue Project was not just a local effort.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to use community policing to fight problems like racial profiling,” Walton said. “This is a key opportunity for the city to work with surrounding communities on an important issue.”