On May 30, 2015, Woodrow Vereen, a music minister, juvenile detention officer, and father of three, was taking his young sons out for ice cream after a Little League game. On the way, Bridgeport police officers 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. Vereen declined. Ruffin ordered Vereen out of the car, frisked him on the sidewalk, and searched the vehicle--all without saying a word to Vereen's frightened sons, who remained inside while the officer inspected around them, and all without evidence of illegal activity. Ultimately, the officers did not find anything in Vereen's car and issued a citation for the alleged yellow light violation, which the Connecticut Superior dismissed. Under the Alvin W. Penn Act, police in Connecticut must file information regarding who they pull over during traffic stops. According to those filings, police are more likely to stop and search Black drivers like Vereen, particularly during daylight hours. The ACLU-CT's lawsuit on behalf of Vereen argued that, by searching Vereen and his car with neither consent nor evidence of illegal activity, Ruffin and Vasquez violated Vereen's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches. In 2017, the ACLU of Connecticut reached a settlement in the case. In that settlement, the defendants and the City of Bridgeport agreed to a monetary payment to Vereen in exchange for his dismissing the lawsuit.
Vereen v. Ruffin and Vasquez
Dan Barrett (ACLU-CT)
April 26, 2016
U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut
Janet Bond Arterton