Four Connecticut police officers who arrested a priest for video recording them inside a store as they were harassing its owners and occupants were arrested by the FBI on federal civil rights violations today.

The indictment, filed last Wednesday, is extremely damning to the East Haven police officers, including the following, which is not the worst of it, but most relevant to this blog:

Defendants attempted to and did prevent civilians from lawfully video-recording police conduct, falsely alleging they were interfering police operations in an effort to prevent these civilians from capturing their and other officers’ misconduct on videotape.

Most of the indictment centers around an ongoing pattern of physical abuse, intimidation, shake-downs and illegal searches, which was made obvious in the 2009 video where police claimed they arrested the priest because they were in fear for their lives, thinking the camera may have been a gun.

But it was the video that sparked the investigation.

Charges against Father James Manship were dismissed two weeks later and he filed a complaint with the Justice Department immediately after, accusing them of racially profiling East Haven’s Hispanic community.

One of the cops indicted, Sgt. John Miller, is president of the police union.

According to the New York Times:

The four were also accused of trying to prevent civilians from videotaping the police on duty. The indictment said the officers had maintained that the videotaping was “interfering with police operations,” while the officers actually wanted “to prevent these civilians from capturing their and other officers’ misconduct on videotape.”

The indictment also detailed what it described as a campaign of intimidation and harassment of the East Haven Police Commission when it tried to investigate some of the allegations against the four officers. In one instance, the indictment said, a union leader forced a commission meeting about possible police misconduct to end early because he behaved in such an intimidating manner.

According to WTNH:

The FBI has arrested four East Haven police officers on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges following an investigation into alleged civil rights violations.

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

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

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