NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Four police officers in East Haven, Conn. have been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice following an investigation into alleged civil rights violations.

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Officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari and Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller, president of the police union, are charged with conspiracy, deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice.

The investigation into four officers began three years ago following complaints from members of the Latino community that they were being harassed and intimidated by police.

“At its core, this is an abuse of power case,” said Tom Perez, assistant attorney general from the Federal Justice Department. “Police officers are supposed to protect and serve and the indictment alleges that the officers abused their power and that added insult to injury by intimidating witnesses and creating a climate of fear.”

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“In simple terms, they behaved like bullies with badges,” said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director of the New York office of the FBI.

Federal officials say the officers denied Latino residents and their advocates the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizers, the right to not be arrested and detained without probable cause and to not be arrested on false and misleading evidence.

The officers also are accused of harassing and intimidating individuals, including advocates, witnesses and other officers who tried to investigate or report misconduct or abuse committed by the four officers.

The East Haven Police Department of some 50 officers has come under scrutiny previously for civil rights issues. A federal jury ruled in 2003 that a white officer used excessive force and violated the rights of a black man he fatally shot after a chase.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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