Madison Police and University of New Haven Plan to Pilot Counselor Ride-alongs

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The Madison Police Department is developing a pilot program with the University of New Haven to arrange for graduate students in the school’s licensed professional counseling program to accompany officers on calls when a social worker is needed.  “I think the next generation of police officers is going to be somebody, he or she, who involves themselves with a social services background, maybe in college,” Madison Police Chief Jack Drumm said during a meeting of the town’s Board of Police Commissioners on April 8.  The program comes in response to a mandate in the police accountability bill passed by the

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State Police Step Away as Towns Face State Mandate on Body Cams

Towns served by the resident trooper program learned last month that Connecticut State Police will no longer store and administer dashboard camera footage for individual departments, and will also leave the departments to find their own solutions for storing body camera footage required as part of the Police Accountability Bill passed last summer in special session.  State Police Col. Stavros Mellekas sent notification to the 55 towns served by at least one resident state trooper. Towns are required to outfit their constables with cameras by July 2022.  “Please know that DESPP State Police shall not be responsible for the purchase

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Old Saybrook Commission Votes 5-2 Against Pursuing Allegations of Misconduct

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OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s Police Commission voted 5-2 on Monday night not to pursue an investigation into the conduct of Chief of Police Michael Spera in response to allegations made by former officers in the Old Saybrook Police Department.  Alfred “Chub” Wilcox made a motion to request that the Board of Selectmen fund the commission to hire a lawyer with “expertise in constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The lawyer would interview former and current members of the department, assess the legality of Spera’s orders and practices and report the findings confidentially to the commission.  Wilcox and Renee

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Senate Votes 30-3 to Delay and Amend Police Accountability Provisions

The State Senate approved a delay in provisions of last summer’s wide-ranging police accountability bill that would restrict when officers are allowed to use deadly force. The Senate voted 30-3 to pass the legislation, which will delay the starting date of new use-of-force standards implemented in the police accountability bill until Jan. 1, 2022, and amends language in those guidelines to ease some thresholds for action. The bill now heads to Gov. Ned Lamont for his signature. State Sen. Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport, was one of three senators who voted against the bill.  Bradley explained that when the legislature approved the

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House Votes 146-0 to Delay and Amend Use of Force Provisions for Connecticut Police

The Connecticut House of Representatives on Tuesday advanced a bill that would delay and curtail provisions of a wide-ranging police accountability bill approved by lawmakers last July restricting when police officers can use deadly force. The bill, which passed by a vote of 146-0, delays the starting date of new use-of-force standards to Jan. 1, 2022, and amends language in those guidelines to be more accommodating to police officers. The House’s bill will now head to the Senate for approval. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters before the House met that he believes the bill passed

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Waterford the Latest Department to Equip Police Officers with Body Cameras

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In early April, Waterford will be the latest police department in Connecticut to equip officers with body cameras while on duty — a change that was mandated to take place no later than July 2022 by the Police Accountability bill passed by the legislature in special session last summer. “It’s going to protect the officers from allegations that are unfounded, and it’s going to protect the public from what they may perceive as officer misconduct,” Waterford Police Chief Brett Mahoney said.  Mahoney said that in-car cameras have already helped the department respond to complaints, and have allowed the public to

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After a Year of Protests a Debate About the Place of Police in Connecticut’s Schools

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Since last summer’s protests against police brutality, school districts in Connecticut have been debating whether to continue the use of school resource officers.  Police officers say the benefits of the position include increased school safety and opportunities to form positive relationships within the community. However, some community members and officials argue that a police presence in the schools increases juvenile arrest rates and creates a military presence within the school system.  “It doesn’t send the right message to have a police officer with a gun in school,” said Curtis Goodwin, a New London city councilman and chair of the town’s

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Budget Adds State Troopers, Reduces Overtime and Decline in Ranks

Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal calls for training 255 new state troopers over the next two years to make up for a wave of expected retirements at a department that has seen its ranks decline almost 20 percent over the last five years. The draft calls for state police to end the budget cycle in June 2023 with 1,093 state troopers. Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella told the Appropriations Committee last week that the State Police now have 913 troopers, with 50-60 typically on leave and a total of 216 becoming eligible to retire by

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Officers Say Toxic Environment Drives Departures from Old Saybrook Police

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OLD SAYBROOK — Since 2009, staff and officer turnover at the Old Saybrook Police Department has far outstripped other departments in the region — a fact that former officers attribute to a toxic work environment within the department.  Although the Old Saybrook Police Department has not provided CT Examiner with employment data requested in a Nov. 12 Freedom of Information request, a number of former officers, as well as past and present members of the town’s police commission, provided documents and spoke on the record to explain and confirm the unusual employment data. A document compiled by a former officer

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State Mandate, Dwindling Funds, Has Towns Scrambling to Purchase Police Body Cameras

Funding to reimburse municipal police departments for the purchase of body cameras languished for years unspent until in March the legislature moved $3 million of $3.6 million remaining to fund camera purchases by the State Police. Now a provision in the Police Accountability Bill passed in special session this summer has towns scrambling to secure any of the remaining money. The bill requires municipal police departments to outfit officers with body cameras no later than July 2022. The new police accountability law has renewed interest in the grant program, with municipal departments hoping to claim a share of the approximately

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Audit Recommends State Police Reduce Overtime, Focus on Recruitment

A recent audit report of the Department of Emergency Services and Police Protection recommended that the department decrease State Police overtime hours which cost the department more than $26 million in 2019.  The report found that 80 officers — in 3 barracks and 4 other locations where overtime had increased substantially in the past year — were earning between $50,968 to $190,677 in overtime pay — anywhere from 100 to 244 percent of their base salaries. The audit also found 3,114 instances in which these same officers worked between 15 and 29.5 hours in one day.  The report recommended that

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Connecticut’s Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking System Nears Completion

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The final piece of Connecticut’s tracking system for sexual assault forensic evidence kits – a sheet of instructions for survivors to track the progress of their evidence kit as it is sent to the state forensic laboratory for testing — is nearly complete. The tracking system began operating in March 2017 as the state worked to clear a backlog of 1,188 forensic evidence kits that local and state police departments had not submitted to the state laboratory for testing. “This is the last missing piece of the puzzle,”  Kristin Sasinouski, deputy director of forensic biology and DNA at the state

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Social Media Posts Spur Wave of Resignations as Police Accountability is Dropped from Special Session

Kevin Coughlin, director of communications for the Connecticut Senate Democrats, confirmed that revisions to the police accountability bill will not be considered in a second special session of the legislature planned for the last week of September. According to Andrew Matthews, attorney for the Connecticut State Police Union, the union and attorneys representing the legislature have developed 22 proposals over the past two months targeting areas of concern in the bill and places for potential change.   The Connecticut State Police Union has been in discussions with legislative leaders and supporters of the bill since it was signed into law by

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A Spike in Car Thefts in Connecticut after Long Downward Trend

From January 1 through the end of August, the Hartford Police Department recovered 741 vehicles stolen in other towns and taken to Hartford, more than the yearly totals for 2018 or  2019.  In one weekend between Friday, Aug. 28 and Sunday, Aug. 30, 82 cars were reported stolen across Connecticut – 62 with the key fob left inside – according to a report released by the Hartford Police Department earlier this week.  In East Lyme, Police Chief Michael Finkelstein said it’s rare to see windows smashed out of vehicles. The town has had more instances where people are entering unlocked

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State Attorney General Files Defense of Disclosure Provisions in New Police Accountability Law

On Tuesday, the Connecticut Attorney General’s office responded to a lawsuit filed last week by the Connecticut State Police Union seeking to have part of the wide-ranging police accountability bill recently passed by the Connecticut General Assembly declared unconstitutional. Assistant Attorney General Michael Skold filed the reply in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut on Tuesday on behalf of the defendant, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella. The police accountability bill, which includes more than 40 changes to policing procedure, would expand which police disciplinary records can be made public under the Connecticut Freedom of Information

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Police Union Suit Pits Collective Bargaining Rights Against Accountability Bill

The union representing Connecticut State Police officers filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday asking that two provisions in a wide-ranging police accountability bill passed last month to be declared unconstitutional because they violate agreements in the union contract approved by the legislature last year. “When the contract expressly states, and the employer agrees to it, and the legislature approves it, no one should be claiming they didn’t know about it,” said Connecticut State Union Executive Director Andrew Matthews said. “They approved it, and they should never strip it away from you. They can come to the table and

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Lawyers and Legislators Debate Costs and Benefits as Policing Bill is Signed into Law

On Thursday Governor Ned Lamont signed into law “An Act Concerning Police Accountability,” after two late nights of debate in the House and the Senate. The legislation includes more than 40 substantive changes to policing in Connecticut, from new requirements regarding the use of lethal force to provisions for allowing civilian review boards on the municipal level, but the public debate and politics surrounding the bill has nevertheless focused overwhelmingly on Section 41 of the bill, which addresses the issue of qualified immunity for police officers.  Proponents of the bill, including State Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, and State Sen. Gary

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State Senate Approves Wide-Ranging Police Accountability Bill 21 – 15

On Tuesday night, the Connecticut State Senate voted 21 to 15 to approve an expansive police accountability bill including restrictions on qualified immunity and changes to “use of force” guidelines for police officers. “This is an issue about power, about how power is used in communities. This is an issue about cost for communities,” said proponent of the bill State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, in an impassioned speech one hour into the more than 9-hour debate over the contentious bill. “This bill is not about the good officers. It’s about the officers who do not do their job …

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Hamden Approves Purchase of Drone with Federal Coronavirus Funding in Close Vote

Hamden will use part of a federal grant to purchase a drone for its police and fire departments, whose chiefs say that it will help with search and rescue operations. The grant comes from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice. The $33,498 DJI Matrice 300 RTK drone, equipped with zooming cameras and thermal imaging, was the most expensive item in the $82,363 grant package that included $26,000 for an update to the Kronos Workforce Telestaff scheduling program, $17,693.69 for personal protective equipment, $1,296.49 for a portable storage shed, $2,163 for two disinfectant sprayers

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House Passes Wide-Ranging Police Accountability Law, Votes Down Amendment to Strip Qualified Immunity Provisions

After more than 22 hours of discussion and debate in the legislative special session, the House of Representatives voted 86 to 58 to approve a wide-ranging police accountability bill written in wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and months of protests against police brutality across the country. The bill was immediately sent to the State Senate. “What we have before us is the best pro-police accountability bill and I’m convinced that the majority of officers in Connecticut would welcome it,” said State Rep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford. Prior to the vote, State Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, a

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After $3 Million Sweep, a Five-year-old Body Camera Bill With Limited Success for Police Reform

Five years after the Connecticut General Assembly approved a $10 million program to reimburse municipal police departments for purchasing body cameras, less than $6.5 million of that funding has been distributed, and what has been distributed was not all designated for body cameras. Small municipalities that haven’t purchased the technology say that the ongoing cost of storing videos and handling freedom of information requests has kept them from using the grant. Now, as nation-wide protests call for increased police transparency in response to police killings of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis, some towns are reconsidering the

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Lawmakers Pledge to Move Quickly, as Accountability Task Force Discusses Police Reforms

The Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force, established last year as part of a legislative reform bill, met on Monday for the first time since March.  As task force members discussed ideas to address public concerns with the police – including ways to increase accountability and ways to limit police encounters in the first place – lawmakers said they couldn’t wait for the group’s final report before they start moving legislation to address police accountability. During the task force’s discussion during the Monday meeting, Milford Police Chief Keith Mello and Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik both pointed to the mediation

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As Rumors Spread Across Social Media, State Police Tamp Down Protest Fears Along Shoreline Connecticut

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As social media posts spark a news story in the Hearst-owned Shoreline Times, and spread across social media, Connecticut State Police tamped down rumors of threatened looting at the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets. “We’ve taken many calls, it’s definitely out there about Clinton Crossing, many people are calling us and asking questions. We’re trying to tell them it’s a precaution and we’re hoping nothing is coming this way at all. But we are prepared if something does happen,” said Sgt. Mark Devine of the Connecticut State Police, Troop F, by phone Saturday morning. Devine said that the State Police know

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