Letter: Darien Police Commission chairman sends open letter to Lamont on police bill
The following letter was sent to Gov. Ned Lamont with copy sent to State Rep. Terrie Wood, Sen. Carlo Leone, Sen. Bob Duff and State Rep. Matt Blumenthal. It is reprinted here at author’s request.
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter in an effort to address several provisions contained in HB. #6004: An Act Concerning Police Accountability, passed on July 31, 2020. I hope the Connecticut General Assembly will revisit these provisions prior to their effective date.
As a start, there are certainly sections of this bill that make sense and I fully support. More attention on the mental health of police officers and expanding the role of social workers are both valuable areas of focus. I support extensive training and education for both new and current officers and holding police officers accountable in cases of misconduct.
I am proud to say the Darien Police Department has policies in place that meet or exceed many of the provisions outlined in the bill. For example, we employ dash cams and every Darien Police officer wears a body cam while on patrol duty. The Darien Police Department has achieved State of Connecticut POST-C Tier Two Accreditation. Our officers have a duty to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force.
We have full civilian oversight of the department through the Darien Police Commission.
However, there are parts of this bill that are already having a significant negative impact on our community, policing and public safety. There is no doubt we need to hold bad officers accountable, and current federal law allows us to do that. However, we also need to simultaneously protect our good officers, as we all benefit from good policing. This bill removes the safeguards to have unmerited and frivolous lawsuits dismissed early, allows good officers in Connecticut to be sued in state court, and changes many of the “bright line” standards and procedures officers currently employ to keep themselves and our communities safe.
As protective policing now presents a significant liability, this bill moves us further from the goal of safety and protection for our citizens as well as our police officers. This bill hurts good officers, damages our recruitment efforts and puts unworkable burdens on our officers that directly impact public safety. In addition, many mandated sections have significant budget implications for local municipalities that will negatively impact police departments across the state.
A bill of this magnitude written, discussed, debated, and voted on in a condensed time table, during the summer, in the midst of a global pandemic, with a public hearing via Zoom is not a process that begets the best outcome. The good news is, despite the fact that the legislation was passed in an all-night emergency session, some sections of this bill do not take effect until 2021.
I can only hope this was designed to give you ample time to focus on the details and fully understand the real-world implications with an opportunity for modifications or changes.
The Darien Police Department is a professional, accredited and highly trained organization made up of caring and engaged officers who strive to do their very best. I am exceedingly proud of the service they provide to our community each and every day.
I hope our legislators will take this time to make necessary reforms. I urge you to give any and all interested parties — including police chiefs, police commissions, town officials, lawmakers and the general public — further opportunity to present to you without the rushed deadlines. You don’t have to look far to see communities across the country where policies were made in haste, without a full vetting of the direct or unintended consequences. It is never too late to do the right and reasonable thing, and we have time to review and modify this bill.
The Darien Police Commission would welcome a meeting with you and your colleagues at any time to discuss these issues further.
Darien Police Commission