Police Accountability On The Agenda After Two High-Profile Shootings | Connecticut Public Radio

Police Accountability On The Agenda After Two High-Profile Shootings

Apr 30, 2019

Some Connecticut legislators say the two high-profile police shootings in the state in recent weeks make it more likely that they’ll push for better police accountability measures. 

State Senator Gary Winfield, who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the gradual spread of body cameras to more districts, and the availability of data on racial profiling are good steps.

But he said a strong lobby for the rights of police officers has prevented more far-reaching accountability measures being passed at the capitol in past years, for instance a bill that would have forbidden cops to shoot into moving vehicles.

He told Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live, he’d like to see better consequences for incidents where officers don’t follow regulations, and he wants more data on police use of force.

“We don’t know what happens demographically with the use of force -- and by use of force I don’t just mean the discharge of a gun, I also think of police chases as a use of force -- we don’t have information around any of those things," said Winfield. "And if I’m -- which I am -- looking to do something around police accountability, I’m looking to pull these things in, so that we can really know what’s happening in the state of Connecticut and we can figure out what the appropriate responses are.”

Meanwhile, Winfield has joined with Senate President Martin Looney in a letter to state's attorney Kevin Kane calling on his office to investigate three specific issues arising from the shooting incident in New Haven on April 16.

The letter highlights the choice made by the two officers involved to fire weapons; the crossing of municipal boundaries by police; and the procedures regarding body cameras and vehicle video recording equipment.

"Our communities are safer when there is complete transparency, accountability, and trust between the public and law enforcement," the letter concludes. "We are hoping that as a result of this comprehensive investigation, we can put into practice new measures that will improve the training and procedures for law enforcement and promote public trust."

Several prominent community members have called for better de-escalation training for officers to stop incidents from becoming violent.

Currently all officers learn de-escalation techniques as part of their initial training, but it’s up to individual districts whether that training is ongoing.

Ray Hassett is a retired lieutenant with New Haven Police Department who conducts de-escalation trainings for officers. He told Where We Live, the issue is coming to a head.

“Everything is in play now, with our brand, with how people perceive us," said Hassett. "We have to be the example, we have to set the tone, but most importantly, when we show up, people have to trust us. We can’t begin to do business until there’s that level of trust.”