Chris Powell: New Haven's biggest problem

New Haven.

New Haven.

Anyone who fears for manufacturing in Connecticut should visit New Haven, where it seems that half the indignation in the country is produced.

The outrage of the moment is what may be a case of mistaken identity last week in which police officers from Hamden and Yale University shot at a car they stopped on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven because it fit the description of a car said to be involved in an attempted armed robbery a mile away in Hamden. A passenger in the car was wounded but no evidence linking the car or its occupants to the robbery has been found. The state's attorney's office and the state police have taken over the investigation.

Horrible as such a mistake by the police here would be, cases of mistaken identity in police work happen all the time and some have far worse results. Some are caused by the negligence of officers, others by devastating coincidence. This one may have been compounded by the officers' lack of judgment if not trigger-happiness.

But because the occupants of the stopped car are black, the protests in New Haven presume without evidence that the incident was part of a nationwide police scheme to murder black people. "No justice, no peace, no racist police," the protesters chant, though the Hamden officer in the incident is black himself and first worked as an officer in New Haven, where he was trained.

The protesters, many of them students at Yale, want the officers fired and prosecuted immediately, before any investigation. That reflects the university's political correctness. They also want the university police disarmed and suburban officers forbidden to pursue criminal suspects into New Haven.

So much for the mandatory regionalism advocated by New Haven Sen. Martin M. Looney. But the rest of the New Haven area might be glad to have less to do with the city if its miserable demographics were not producing so much of the region's crime. Over the weekend prior to the incident on Dixwell Avenue four people were injured in three shootings in New Haven, and even as protesters were chanting away at another rally last Thursday night, a riot broke out at a street party elsewhere in the city, one teenager getting shot and another injured by flying glass.

Of course there were no protests of that violence, since it was typical for New Haven, nor any expressions of sympathy for those assigned by government to protect society against the anarchy of city life. In this respect New Haven is not much worse than Hartford or Bridgeport.

Connecticut does not hold its police to account as well as it should but it has been improving. There are mechanisms for accountability and some recognition that officers in all towns represent the state as a whole. So if Connecticut is really to be a state, the pursuit of violent felons cannot stop at town lines.

So why, despite their worsening demographics, are Connecticut's cities not only largely walled off politically but, as the protests in New Haven show, trying to wall themselves off from due process of law and even law itself? For neither can Connecticut be a state if law in the cities is only a polite fiction.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.