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EH council, local man agree to settlement of police bias claim

Posted on Jan 21 2010

EAST HARTFORD — The Town Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to settle a lawsuit filed by a local man that claimed police used unnecessary force and racially harassed him during a January 2007 incident.

As a result of the settlement, the town will pay Ricky Frink, in a move that council Chairman Richard F. Kehoe said will eliminate a longer legal battle and liability.

Frink was 41 at the time of the incident on Jan. 31, 2007. In an internal affairs investigation, Officer Michael DeMaine wrote that Frink was the main suspect in a motor vehicle dispute that ended at Frink’s address on Indian Hill Street.

DeMaine wrote that a suspect nearly crashed into a police cruiser. Police claimed that the car in question was registered to Frink’s sister and was parked in front of the home when officers arrived.

In an intent-to-sue notice filed two years ago, Frink claimed to be wearing only pajama bottoms when he came outside to speak to police. Up to nine officers were waiting for him, the claim read, and he was ordered to the ground. In the complaint, Frink said police shoved knees into his back. When he asked what he’d done wrong, Frink said an officer punched him in the eye, causing a bruise and “great pain.” Police didn’t arrest Frink and allowed him to return to his home. The intent-to-sue was filed a year after the incident.

In the compliant, Frink said he was “completely obedient,” that the force was “unwarranted and unnecessary,” and that he believed the officers’ actions were racially motivated.

DeMaine was exonerated of wrongdoing through the internal investigation. Police released the report to the Journal Inquirer. In a letter Police Chief Mark J. Sirois wrote to Frink, the chief stated that DeMaine’s actions had been consistent with department procedure and there was no evidence of misconduct.

DeMaine wrote to investigators that he had drawn his gun and ordered Frink to the ground during the incident. When Frink appeared hesitant, the officer holstered his weapon and used “minimal force” to bring Frink into a prone position on the ground.

Also, DeMaine wrote, no officer used any racist language or punched Frink. Several officers interviewed in the report stated that DeMaine was professional and that Frink was never punched. The report concluded that photos taken of Frink following the incident showed no physical evidence that he had been punched with great force.

The report also stated that Frink had been arrested several times in the past with charges that include assault and burglary. Court records confirm that Frink has twice been convicted of disorderly conduct, resulting in probation.

Frink’s intent-to-sue named DeMaine, Sirois, a sergeant, several other officers, and the town of East Hartford as defendants.

The council voted during its regular meeting Tuesday to settle the suit. Members discussed the suit in an executive session prior to the meeting.

Police spokesman Officer Hugo Benettieri declined to comment on the settlement.

By Matthew Engelhardt
Journal Inquirer