Ebony Barnes 44, (center) of Bridgeport during the Caravan 4 Justice gather at the Connecticut State Capitol to peacefully demonstrate against the systematic abuse of police power perpetrated against the black community on June 7, 2020 in Hartford. Joe Amon / CT Public Radio
Protestors kneel in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd on Monday, June 8 at Milford Green. The time is how long a Minneapolis police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror
Protestors kneel in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd on Monday, June 8 at Milford Green. The time is how long a Minneapolis police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

Members of the Police Accountability and Transparency Task Force agreed Tuesday to study requiring all Connecticut police departments to be subject to community oversight in an effort to strengthen residents’ trust of local law enforcement.

That decision came a day after Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order calling for accountability measures within the state police, and on the same day the Connecticut Chiefs of Police Association issued a 90-day moratorium on law enforcement authorities accepting more military equipment.

The task force’s purview is focused on the short and long term: they are helping refine lawmakers’ goals in an impending special session, and are tasked with providing lawmakers with a set of recommendations on more reforms before the legislative session in 2021.

“This is a starting point. We don’t have everything figured out yet,” said Daryl McGraw, task force co-chair. “It’s just a guide. Prior to this meeting, we had no guide, we had nothing.”

The task force, which also met last week, will continue to expand on and update its priorities, McGraw said.

“The things that we can move immediately on, we should move forward on immediately,” he said.

Many of the suggestions were broad, from changing the culture of policing to developing an independent external investigating authority. Some could be implemented without changing state law, such as publicly addressing police departments’ role in past injustices.

Some suggestions can be fulfilled immediately, said Keith L. Mello, chief of Milford Police and head of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. For instance, law enforcement authorities can publish all departmental policies and procedures online.

And police training can be altered so officers better understand the historical context of their work. Mello said the state could provide new officers with “a more accurate depiction” of the history of policing, referencing southern police officers’ historical role in upholding the institution of slavery.

Mello said another proposal, requiring police to report misconduct and intervene when they see wrongdoing, is already a requirement for municipal police departments, thanks to mandated accreditation standards voted on by the Police Officers Standards and Training Council last week.

“They say, ‘You can’t legislate behavior,’ but in this case we have an auditing capability,” Mello said. “We can make sure departments not only have it in policy, but also in practice.”

Other priorities on the list are already policy, said Mello, like developing a strategy to achieve state or national accreditation for all police departments in Connecticut.

“I don’t know why we would examine that. We actually already have that,” Mello said. Police departments have voluntary levels of accreditation, which the chief described as “very expensive and very resource- heavy,” but Mello said the minimum levels of accreditation are already significant.

“I think the concepts are all good here, but there’s no sense looking at something we already have,” said Mello.

McGraw acknowledged some of the policies were already in place. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to look at it,” he said “We’ll just look at it and say, ‘OK this is enough.’ But some may say, ‘This isn’t deep enough. Can we go a step further?’”

The task force’s preliminary priorities are:

  • Change the culture of policing — adopt a guardian, not warrior, culture
  • Publicly address the role of policing in past injustices
  • Make all departmental policies and procedures available online
  • Conduct regional listening sessions, coupled with community surveys, by the end of the summer
  • Examine police officers’ interactions with individuals with a mental, intellectual or physical disability
  • Ensure each officer commits to 500 hours of community engagement within Connecticut’s major cities before receiving an officer certification
  • Make it mandatory that police have a duty to intervene when they see other officers engaging in wrongdoing
  • Develop an independent external investigating authority so the public trusts that deadly use of force investigations are credible
  • Prohibit chokeholds and neck restraints
  • Reform internal affairs to ensure the process is transparent and accountable, and that the community has a voice in investigations
  • Revise the citizen complaint process so there is a statewide public database of police complaints by officer and department
  • Require police to identify themselves by their full name, rank and command, and provide that information, in writing, to people they have stopped, and mandate cops state the reason for the stop and search, if applicable.
  • Force law enforcement agencies to publish demographic information on their departments
  • Identify state labor issues that prevent police administrations from easily removing unfit officers
  • Amend the Alvin Penn Law, Connecticut’s anti-racial profiling law, to include racial/ethnic, gender and religious data collection of pedestrian stops, breaches of the peace and interfering with a police officer
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of other less-than-lethal-force tools
  • Mandate body cameras for all police departments
  •  End the Broken Windows theory of policing
  • Require community oversight of all police departments
  • Develop a strategy to achieve accreditation for all Connecticut police departments so each agency meets minimum standards for operation
  • Ensure early intervention for police officers through assistance, correction action and discipline
  • Implement psychological evaluation of officers into the recertification process

The task force will split into subgroups to further discuss the working list of priorities. Their next meeting is June 30 at 1 p.m.

Kelan is a Report For America Corps Member who covers the intersection of mental health and criminal justice for CT Mirror. Before joining CT Mirror, Kelan was a staff writer for City Weekly, an alt weekly in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a courts reporter for The Bryan-College Station Eagle, in Texas. He is originally from Philadelphia.

Leave a comment