Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order Monday calling for accountability measures within the state police — including a ban on neck holds that restricts a person’s oxygen.
The order also requires the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to review any time state police use force on a suspect, including their electronic stun gun and police baton. Lamont is calling for every state police officer to wear a body camera and every marked state police cruiser to have a dashboard camera.
Legislative leaders have promised swift action in a special session that will address police accountability, and a Police Accountability and Transparency Task Force is working on suggestions to send to lawmakers, but the governor said he issued an executive action to get something done now.
“Let’s not wait,” Lamont said. “I’ve got the legislature coming in this session, but I don’t want to wait another minute.”
Lawmakers could apply similar measures to municipal police departments in a bill in the special session. Rep. Brandon McGee, chairman of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican caucus and a Hartford Democrat, praised Lamont for taking the lead on police reform measures and offering a path for legislators to follow.
“We need to get down to the municipal level, where a lot of these killings, lynchings, if you would, are actually occurring of black and brown men,” McGee said. “I think as we begin to work on proposals, I am excited that this governor, administration, is open to having that conversation to figure out how collectively we can come up with some legislation that has teeth and, again, not to just pass something just to pass it, and also account for all of the many voices that are rallying today, tomorrow and in the remaining weeks, until we see some real change happening.”
Not all were satisfied with Lamont’s order. Mel Medina, public policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Connecticut, said the policies did not go far enough, and did nothing to end police violence or racism.
Other aspects of the governor’s order include:
- Requirements that troopers, whenever possible, de-escalate situations, provide a verbal warning, and exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before using deadly force.
- Intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force and report in writing any violations to a supervisor.
- Prohibit troopers from shooting at or into moving vehicles unless the occupants pose a deadly thereat by means other than the vehicle.
- Require troopers to report all uses of force, including drawing a firearm on another civilian.
The governor also spoke about plans to reform the racial and ethnic composition of the Connecticut State Police. White males make up 80% of state police, Lamont said Monday. He said progress is being made — the current class of new troopers is made of up 60% white men, and includes increased numbers of women and people of color.
Members of the Public Safety and Security committee praised Lamont’s efforts.
“We no longer look at each other as a problem but that we police in the sense of service,” said State Sen. Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport.
Bradley said that while the executive order is just a start, he and his legislative colleagues must work together to bring reform to city and town police forces that the governor does not have authority over.
Lowest number of new deaths associated with COVID-19 announced
Connecticut reported its lowest number of one-day deaths due to the coronavirus Monday, as the state prepares for a second round of business openings Wednesday.
Lamont announced three new reported COVID-19 associated deaths Monday — the lowest number of deaths since data has been tracked.
There have been 4,204 deaths associated with COVID-19 overall in Connecticut, according to the public health data released Monday. Lamont pointed to a 2% infection rate, citing 7,255 new tests reported in the last day and 147 new cases, according to public health data. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 increased by two, with 203 people currently hospitalized in the state with the virus.
“This is no victory lap, this is no mission accomplished,” Lamont said at a press conference Monday outside the governor’s residence. “We got a long way to go.”
Hartford Hospital takes down COVID-19 alternate care tent
A tent that stood ready if the need for beds exceeded the capacity of state hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic began to come down Monday morning. Efforts to flatten the curve of the spread have been largely successful in Connecticut, and the tent Hartford Hospital put up this spring was not utilized.
Officials said the hospital is scheduling elective procedures and the emergency room is safe for all patients as doctors remain prepared for an evolution of COVID-19.
“COVID is still here. We’re very cognizant of that and we’re taking all the precautions needed for that. But we’re also going back to our normal state of activities and procedures that you would have expected prior to COVID,” Dr. Adam Steinberg, Vice President for Medical Affairs, Hartford Region, said at a morning press conference.
Steinberg said the hospital is concerned with the health and safety of patients and visitors as well as health care providers. And he praised his staff.
“We are extremely proud of the adaptability of our staff,” Steinberg said.
Doctors urged people to not let the pandemic prevent them from getting treatment for other medical conditions.
New Haven reviews regulations for Phase 2 reopening
New Haven officials held a webinar Monday ahead of Wednesday’s Phase 2 reopening in the state. Restaurants can start allowing indoor dining starting Wednesday, and nail salons, tattoo studios, gyms, amusement parks and museums can all reopen.
In addition to explaining state regulations for businesses reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials said they will be checking on businesses.
“Expect unexpected visits,” Maritza Bond, Director of Public Health at City of New Haven, said.
Businesses were told to have clear social distancing markers and proper signage displayed in all industries. Ventilation must move air out of windows with ceiling fans drawing air up to the ceiling rather than pushing it down on customers, Bond said. Employees should be trained in all regulations with a single manager and program administrator if city or state officials visit for an inspection. Customers not wearing a face covering should not be served — once seated, diners can remove their masks.
Employers must also provide their workers with the proper PPE before they can reopen. Bond said businesses that cannot comply with regulations should remain closed until they can.
Bond echoed Lamont’s recent comments that consumers confidence in safety measures will be key to restarting the state economy and the survival of individual businesses.
Lamont praises U.S. Supreme Court ruling protecting LGBTQ workers
The rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBTQ equality, flew over the state Capitol Monday as Lamont praised the U.S. Supreme Court ruling confirming it is unlawful to discriminate against LGBTQ workers under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“Nobody should be fired because of who they love or the gender in which they identify. I am proud to live in a state that explicitly extended these civil rights protections to LGBTQ workers many years ago, and now we can celebrate that federal law prohibits this type of discrimination,” Lamont said it a statement.
In a 6-3 decision, Conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch joined Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in the ruling.
An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Gorsuch wrote in the court opinion.
UConn officials investigate alleged racism on social media
Officials at the University of Connecticut are investigating social media posts from at least one incoming student and at least one current student which appear to share “disturbing and racist sentiments,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said Monday.
Reitz confirmed the investigation after a tweet from UConn President Tom Katsouleas. The exact content of the social media postings was not made immediately clear by school officials.
In a Twitter post Monday, Katsouleas said that “UConn is committed to racial justice and respect for all, and is reviewing the posts to assess potential action.”
We are aware of the social media posts being circulated and are taking each of them very seriously. @UConn is committed to racial justice and respect for all, and is reviewing the posts to assess potential action. pic.twitter.com/RdCBzop1g8
— Tom Katsouleas (@UConnPrezTK) June 15, 2020
The head of the state’s flagship public university said the investigation will include speaking directly with the individuals responsible for the posts, and that “until that process is complete, the university will not allow … these individuals to enroll.”
“To be clear, the university has the ability to rescind admission and will do so if necessary to uphold our expectations of each other and the values of our community,” Katsouleas said.
Protesters remain camped outside Bridgeport Police Station
Protesters organized by the Justice for Jayson group remained in tents outside the Bridgeport Police Station Monday after setting up camp Saturday. The protesters have said they will stay there until Monday’s city council meeting and are asking for the council to hear their concerns in-person.
The group was formed in 2017 after 15-year-old Jayson Negron was shot and killed by Bridgeport police Officer James Boulay on May 9, 2017. Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt cleared Boulay of any wrongdoing in January 2018.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said he supports peaceful protests.
“There are still feelings of pain from losses, Bridgeport’s included,” Ganim said in a statement. “I have no problem with people expressing themselves. I hope though, as we go through this, constructive ideas will come.”
CT Mirror Reporter Kelan Lyons contributed to this story.