A protestor argues with a New Haven police officer as a statue of Christopher Columbus is removed in Wooster Square Park in New Haven, June 24, 2020. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org
A protester argues with a New Haven police officer as a statue of Christopher Columbus is removed in Wooster Square Park in New Haven last month.

Washington – The nation’s top business leaders, including several representing some of Connecticut’s biggest companies, has done what Congress could not because of partisan differences. They have drafted a compromise policing reform plan they want lawmakers to act on this month.

A proposal released Wednesday by Business Roundtable, which represents the chief executives of 193 large companies, has tried to find common ground, endorsing a ban on choke holds except when deadly force is authorized, a national police misconduct registry and “raising the standard” for “no-knock” warrants police use in drug cases.

A Democratic bill approved in the House would ban these warrants, a Republican bill blocked by Senate Democrats would mandate that state and localities report data to the attorney general on their use. So the CEO’s tried to craft a compromise.

Criminologist Laurie Robinson said the nation’s big business leaders felt pressure to take a leadership role in police reforms.

Connecticut companies that belong to Business Roundtable include Cigna, Travelers, Stanley Black & Decker and Pitney Bowes. Other Roundtable members have large subsidiaries in Connecticut, including Raytheon Technologies, parent company of Pratt & Whitney; and Lockheed Martin, which owns Sikorsky.

The Business Roundtable proposal also calls for greater federal investment in programs to promote community policing and increased police force diversity and community representation — all measures that can attract bipartisan support.

“Congress cannot afford to let this moment pass. There is room for bipartisan agreement on many critical issues of policing reform,” said Business Roundtable President Joshua Bolten.

After the death of George Floyd in police custody, which unleashed waves of nationwide protests and demands for policing reforms,  business leaders were pressured by employees, customers and perhaps even board members to take action to combat racism, said  Laurie Robinson, a professor of criminology at George Mason University.

Stanley Black & Decker President Jim Loree, for example, issued a “statement of solidarity” with the protest movement.

“We intend to listen, understand and take action to do better for the African-American community within Stanley Black & Decker and at large,” Loree said.

But with their policing reform plan, corporate America has gone beyond showing its support for an end to racial injustice and has gone in “an unexpected direction,” Robinson said.

“This is obviously outside their normal area of focus,” she said. “Yet they want to be in a a leadership position.”

The corporate world does have experience in one area – training employees – and it offered up that expertise.

“Business Roundtable welcomes the opportunity to assist police departments in developing sound, data-driven training,” its recommendations said.

Polls that show Americans overwhelmingly support police reforms may have also influenced corporate action.

“Corporate America cannot sit this one out. CEOs are leaning forward and saying ‘we have a problem.’ You cannot watch the George Floyd video and say ‘we don’t have a problem’,” said Randall Stephenson, Executive Chairman of AT&T who leads the Roundtable’s Racial Equity and Justice Subcommittee on Equitable Justice.

Business Roundtable said it will lobby members of Congress and engage with civil rights and law enforcement leaders during Congress’s July Fourth recess. The organization also plans to run radio and digital ads calling for swift action on policing reforms.

 

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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