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Four police officers arrested in abuse of Hispanics in Conn.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Four police officers, including the president of the local police union, were arrested Tuesday by the FBI on charges that they used excessive force against illegal immigrants and covered up abuses in a New Haven suburb where a federal investigation found life was made miserable for Hispanics.

The East Haven officers assaulted people while they were handcuffed, unlawfully searched Latino businesses and harassed and intimidated people, including advocates, witnesses and other officers who tried to investigate or report misconduct or abuses the officers committed, the federal indictment said.

Police treatment of Hispanics in the seaside city of East Haven has been under federal scrutiny since 2009, when the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights inquiry that found a pattern of discrimination and biased policing.

Officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari and Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller, president of the police union, are each charged with conspiracy against rights, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years. Some also face charges including deprivation of rights, obstruction of justice and use of unreasonable force. All four defendants pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport. The U.S. attorney for Connecticut, David Fein, said the criminal investigation is still looking at other people and urged tipsters to contact the FBI.