ACLU-CT Reaches Settlement in Lawsuit Stemming from Unjust Traffic Stop by Bridgeport Police

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2017

CONTACT: Meghan Smith, 860-992-7645, msmith@acluct.org  
BRIDGEPORT  – A lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut on behalf of music minister Woodrow Vereen against two Bridgeport police officers, stemming from a 2015 traffic stop, has been settled. According to the agreement, the defendants and the City of Bridgeport agreed to a monetary payment to Vereen in exchange for his dismissing the lawsuit.

“We are pleased that our client’s quest for justice has ended in a fair agreement,” said Dan Barrett, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut and the attorney representing Vereen in the case. “Although Mr. Vereen had done nothing wrong and did not consent to a search, he was removed from his car, frisked, and detained by Bridgeport police, all in full view of his frightened sons. This agreement sends a message that the Fourth Amendment still matters in Connecticut, and we hope that the Bridgeport police department will reconsider acting like an occupying force that suspects even a father taking his children out for ice cream.”

“One of the reasons I filed this lawsuit was to show people who feel they don’t have a voice, or the means to get help, that it’s possible to get justice,” said Vereen. “No matter who we are, we all have rights, and I am grateful to the ACLU of Connecticut for opening up the avenues of justice for me and my family.”

Vereen, a lifelong Bridgeport resident, is a music minister, juvenile detention officer, and father of three. On May 30, 2015, he was taking his seven and three-year-old sons out for ice cream after a Little League game. On the way, Bridgeport police employees Keith Ruffin and Carlos Vasquez stopped him for allegedly running a yellow light. After Vereen produced his license and registration, Ruffin asked for permission to search the car. When Vereen declined, Ruffin ordered Vereen out of the car, frisked him, and searched the vehicle while Vereen’s young sons remained inside. Ruffin and Vasquez did not find anything in Vereen’s car, but gave Vereen traffic tickets for allegedly running a yellow light and not carrying proof of car insurance. The Connecticut Superior Court later dismissed both tickets.

For more information about the settlement agreement: http://www.acluct.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Vereen-v-Ruffin-and-Vasquez-agreement.pdf

For more information about the lawsuit, including the original complaint filed by the ACLU of Connecticut on behalf of Mr. Vereen: http://www.acluct.org/updates/aclu-ct-files-lawsuit-against-bridgeport-police-officers-for-traffic-search