Senate Approval Sends Juvenile Crime Bill to Lamont’s Desk 

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HARTFORD – After airing what one lawmaker called “a crazy mix of opinions,” a near-unanimous State Senate vote Wednesday gave final legislative approval to a menu of stricter laws and expanded diversionary programs designed to address juvenile crime. But the contentious debate that preceded the 35-1 vote showed how deep divisions run when it comes to public safety and crime depending on one’s experience, political leanings, and street address.  “The perspective you have of crime generally as an individual is about what you see in your area,” said State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, who recalled growing up with a

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Police Avoid Traffic Stops for Unregistered Vehicles, Focus on More Serious Crimes

License-plate readers posted in busy parts of Stamford are detecting lots of unregistered vehicles on the streets. But officers are focusing on other things the automated plate readers detect, including vehicles that are stolen, those that may have been used in a crime, and those wanted in investigations by other law enforcement agencies. That’s fine with Ken Barone, a researcher tasked with helping to establish fair and effective public policies in Connecticut. Barone has been working on reforming the state’s motor vehicle code, which has hundreds of violations. “It’s been a belief for a long time within some police circles

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Safety, Crowding, and Policing a Concern in Stamford Parks, as Child Recovers in Hospital

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For most of the five years Jeff Stella has been a city representative, he has raised the prospect of danger at Lione Park. On Sunday, something perilous happened. An 11-year-old on a swing was struck by a car that careened through the playground fence. The child, at last check, was in stable condition. “When I heard, I prayed his injuries weren’t serious,” said Stella, whose district on Stamford’s West Side includes the busy park. “Then I thought, ‘This has been one of my fears, and now it happened.’” The woman behind the wheel, 54-year-old Mikel Lyneel of Stamford, was charged

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House Easily Passes Juvenile Crime Bill But Divisions Apparent After Debate

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HARTFORD – After hours of emotional debate over whether a get-tough policy or social intervention is the way to combat juvenile crime, an overwhelming 129-17 House of Representatives bipartisan majority on Thursday approved a bill that attempts to take both approaches to address crime by young people – especially car thefts. The bill now moves on to the Senate for a final vote before the legislative session ends next week.  It provides an array of measures such as stiffer penalties for repeat car thieves, creation of a car-theft task force and greater discretion for judges to order suspects to wear

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At the Capitol, Juvenile Crime is in the Eye of the Party-holder 

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HARTFORD – The State Capitol press conferences were held back-to-back, but the views of Democrats and Republicans on the level of juvenile crime in Connecticut and how to deal with it were worlds apart.  “I think this is a systemic problem,” Republican State Rep. Vincent Candelora of North Branford told reporters. “All you have to do is go on Facebook or walk out your front door and talk to your neighbors.” Minutes later, East Hartford Democrat State Rep. Jason Rojas gave the same group a completely different take.  “It doesn’t happen to the vast majority of people in our state,”

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Breaks with Town Attorney to Pass New Bylaws

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OLD SAYBROOK – Against the advice of the town attorney, the Old Saybrook Police Commission on Monday night approved new policies meant to encourage communication between commissioners and the public. In a 5-2 party-line vote, the commission approved new rules for managing correspondence with the public, and for talking with the public about their concerns regarding the Old Saybrook Police Department.  The commission voted 6-1 to approve an additional rule that would prohibit speakers at public commission meetings from criticizing specific employees of the police department in a way that can identify that person. The commission again postponed a vote

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State Police Mum on Reported Trooper-Involved Shooting 

HEBRON – An investigation by CT Examiner supports allegations that a Connecticut State Police trooper fired several shots into the wheel of her cruiser to prevent it from being stolen by a suspect in a chaotic incident on Monday – an action that some troopers say endangered other officers and may have violated agency use-of-force policy. No mention of the shooting was made in the police report and a press release on the incident, and top agency officials did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday regarding the incident. Through other channels, CT Examiner has obtained police photographs from

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Debates By-Laws, Town Attorney Raises Doubt

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OLD SAYBROOK – Changes to policies that will affect how the Old Saybrook Police Commission deals with comments, inquiries and complaints from the public regarding the Old Saybrook Police Department were discussed at Monday’s meeting as the commission awaits further clarification of an opinion from town attorney Michael Cronin.  Committee Chair Alfred Wilcox said on Monday that Cronin was reconsidering an opinion he had provided that referred to a proposed change as “illegal.”  The current by-law says that all complaints submitted to the police commission will be turned over to the Old Saybrook Police Department. The revised bylaw would give

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State Police Misconduct Cases Spotlight Divergent Discipline, Staffing Issues

A rookie state police trooper caught stealing from a gun shop gets to keep his job, while eight recruits at the police academy who admitted trying to cheat on a test are fired just days before they were to graduate later this week, possibly ending their careers before they started. Details of these two highly-charged situations came to light late last week when state police released internal investigation reports on them, but whether the punishment handed down is equitable remains an open question.  And hanging over both incidents and the police response to them is a severe and growing understaffing

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Fired State Police Recruit Admits Cheating, Says Many Others Escaped Punishment

One of eight state police recruits fired this week after an investigation concluded they cheated on a written exam says the group was unfairly singled out and that police Commissioner James Rovella’s statement that they did not immediately own up to the incident is not true.  The recruit told CT Examiner on Thursday that “about half” of the class of 61 recruits had improperly opened a digital link to the January test on motor-vehicle accident investigations, which the eight admitted they had also begun to work on before being authorized to do so.  “That was where I made my mistake

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Armored Emergency Vehicle Gets Closer to West Haven 

A potential political minefield popped up Tuesday in West Haven’s two-year bid to secure an armor-plated military vehicle to use in disaster and shooting rescues, but some quick legislative steering put the vehicle back on track for its target destination at the town’s police department.  The planned free transfer to West Haven of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, now owned by Farmington police could have been derailed by a surprise amendment to related legislation that was introduced at a State Capitol meeting of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. Proposed by Stonington Republican committee member and

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A Low Crime Rate in Stamford, Despite Nine Days in March

STAMFORD – A police report belies the calm that settled on the streets of Connecticut’s second-largest city this winter. Shots fired, March 5 – .40 caliber and .45 caliber shell casings found on Vassar Avenue. Shots fired, March 8 – unknown person in a blue vehicle shoots at 19-year-old male walking on Myano Lane. Shots fired, March 10 – unknown person in a dark sedan shoots at a group of teenagers on Custer Street. Two bullet holes found in the home at 4 Custer St. Shots fired, March 14 – .40 caliber shell casings found on Connecticut Avenue; incident may

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State Police Recruits Fired After Cheating Probe, Worsening Chronic Understaffing 

MERIDEN – Nine days before they were scheduled to graduate after six months of instruction at the State Police Training Academy, eight state police recruits have been fired for cheating on a written exam.  “This was a very unfortunate set of circumstances and allegations such as these are not taken lightly,” Colonel Stavros Mellekas, the agency’s top sworn officer, said in a statement. “From start to finish, we demand that our recruits maintain the integrity of the Connecticut State Police.” Part of a class of 62 scheduled to graduate March 24, the recruits were accused of cheating on a written

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Lamont Gun-Law Proposal Sparks Opposition at Capitol Hearing

HARTFORD – Gov. Ned Lamont’s wide-ranging proposal to tighten Connecticut’s gun laws came under fire from an array of speakers at a legislative hearing Monday – led by Republicans opposed to the state’s 170,000 gun-permit holders being required to show the document to police even if they are not suspects in a crime.  State Police Commissioner James Rovella, who presented the package on Lamont’s behalf, was questioned for more than two hours by members of the Judiciary Committee.  The permit issue produced several contentious exchanges with Rovella, as did a proposed ban on carrying firearms in voting locations, state and

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Wanted in West Haven: Free Bulletproof Rescue Vehicle

It’s an intimidating, armor-plated military vehicle called an MRAP, which stands for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. And if the General Assembly approves, one could be coming to the streets of West Haven and other area towns.  “Whether it is for a natural disaster or an active shooter, the main role this vehicle will play is the saving of human life,” West Haven Republican State Rep. Charlie Ferraro testified Thursday before the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. “Having this vehicle in the police department’s fleet will be an enormous asset to provide for the safety and security of the residents

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Broken Headlights, Racial Disparities Focus of Hearing on Police Accountability Law

HARTFORD – A debate over whether a part of the police-accountability law passed in 2020 is an effective tool in reducing racial disparities in law enforcement or is stifling the ability of police to do their job dominated a State Capitol public hearing Wednesday.  Much of the discussion before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee focused on newly-proposed changes to the law that would prohibit police from stopping drivers for “low-level” equipment violations such as broken headlights, improperly displayed license plates and having window tinting darker than state regulations allow. The changes were included in a recently published report by the Police

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Expanded Bill to Ban Hiring of Police Officers for Misconduct Moves Forward

HARTFORD – Under what circumstances should a police officer who leaves one department because of misconduct be banned from ever being hired by another?  That question and a legislative bill that would expand those conditions moved closer to a debate by the General Assembly after a vote Tuesday by its Public Safety and Security Committee to advance it.  The bill toughens language in a version passed last year by broadening the situations that could lead to such a ban – including those involving discrimination and use of physical force – and has been opposed by the state’s largest municipal police

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Impact of State Police Command Retirements Debated by Union, Administration

With nine of the top 10 state police commanders indicating they will soon retire, the loss of experienced leadership and the domino effect of promoting less-seasoned troopers to take their place is drawing concern from the troopers’ union.  The state police commissioner, however, says the situation will not result in any positions being filled by anyone with inadequate experience and qualifications.  The nine majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels are among thousands of state employees who are retiring or are expected to before changes to pension and medical benefits take effect July 1 that are widely viewed as financially unattractive.  Chronic

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Proposal to Strengthen Hate-Crime Enforcement Debated by Legislators, Police, Victims

HARTFORD – Hate crimes are on the rise in Connecticut, but the state’s haphazard system of identifying, reporting and prosecuting them is a source of confusion and mistrust that results in underreporting of the incidents.  That was the message delivered to lawmakers Thursday at a State Capitol public hearing called to get input on a legislative proposal that would create a dedicated hate-crimes unit within the State Police – a move that many said would streamline the system while making it more effective.  State Police Commissioner James Rovella – the first to speak at the video hearing before the legislature’s

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New Legal Findings Define Powers of Old Saybrook Police Commission and Department

OLD SAYBROOK — An attorney contracted by the Police Commission said that the commission has a “broad oversight authority” that goes beyond the hiring, firing and promoting of officers — findings that both the Police Commissioner and the Police Chief said they agree with.  In an opinion letter dated February 14, Christopher Hodgson of the firm Berchem Moses said that the commission has a “general oversight responsibility” for police department operations, while the police department was responsible for enforcing the law and preventing crime. “The Police Commission is responsible for ensuring that the Police Department is meeting the needs of

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Pequots, Mohegans Seek Legislative Approval to Issue Pistol Permits 

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They have more than 50 state-certified police officers between them, as well as a fleet of cruisers, holding cells for suspects, a firearms-training range and an automated fingerprinting system. But what police at the sovereign-nation reservations of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and its neighboring Mohegan Tribe don’t have is the power to issue pistol permits to their residents as is granted to every municipal department in the state. A proposed bill before the General Assembly would change that, and was the subject of a public hearing this week before the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. Merrill Reels, treasurer

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State Police Academy Cheating Probe Takes New Direction, Lamont Reacts

MERIDEN – A new twist has emerged in an alleged cheating incident among recruits at the State Police Training Academy that are scheduled to graduate next month, and Gov. Ned Lamont has weighed in on the situation for the first time.  Two weeks after the agency’s highest-ranking officer said he was nearly ready to make a recommendation to public safety Commissioner James Rovella on the recruits’ discipline, Colonel Stavros Mellekas said Thursday that he has decided instead to order an internal-affairs investigation into the matter. “Based upon evolving information I felt that it was the most prudent course of action,”

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Stamford Police Union Takes Aim at 2020 Police Accountability Law, Endorses Stefanowski

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STAMFORD – Retirements are at record highs; recruitment is falling to new lows; retaining qualified officers is difficult. Respect for law enforcement is declining; recent reforms were enacted without police perspective; violent crime is on the rise as morale among the rank-and-file slumps. Those are among the reasons the Stamford police union is endorsing Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski over incumbent Democrat Ned Lamont in this year’s race for governor. “Accountability cannot just be reserved for law enforcement,” reads the announcement from Stamford Police Association President David O’Meara. “Legislators routinely evade responsibility for their actions.” It’s a tough letter that takes

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Rookie State Trooper Caught in Theft to Receive 10-Day Suspension, Transfer

A 10-day suspension and a transfer out of the State Police Troop H barracks in Hartford is the recommended punishment for a rookie state trooper accused of a theft last summer from a gun shop in Newington, according to information obtained by CT Examiner.  Under the proposal, Trooper Romello Lumpkin will be transferred to the State Police Troop D barracks in Danielson effective Feb. 25, according to a personnel order obtained by CT Examiner that was signed by State Police Commissioner James Rovella and distributed to all state police barracks and other units.  Rovella’s assistant, Brian Foley, has referred all

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Proposal to Form Hate Crimes Unit Splits Lawmakers in Hartford

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HARTFORD – The first step toward reviving a legislative proposal to form a dedicated hate crimes unit within the State Police got off to a contentious start Thursday when some Republicans on the Public Safety and Security Committee objected to the bill’s intent and cast doubt on whether the understaffed force has the resources to do so.  State Sen. Dan Champagne, a retired Vernon police officer and ranking Republican on the committee, said he was still troubled that the title of the bill first proposed last year referred to the unit being formed to investigate hate crimes and criminal acts

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Rookie State Trooper Awaits Discipline for Newington Gun Store Theft

Discipline is pending against a rookie state trooper accused of stealing a gun ammunition-loading magazine from a Newington shop two weeks after he graduated from the State Police Training Academy last summer – an incident captured by the store’s video surveillance cameras.  Romello Lumpkin, 26, of Bloomfield, is seen on the video tucking the ammunition magazine into the waistband of his shorts at the counter of Newington Gun Exchange when the employee who was waiting on him and others were apparently distracted.  The shop declined to press charges, and Lumpkin eventually returned the $40 item. The case was referred to

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Connecticut Lawmakers Listen as Officers Testify to the Mental Toll of Police Work

The Norwalk police officer had seen more than her share of gruesome and heartbreaking suicides, including those of colleagues on the force and a man who begged the officer to shoot him just hours before he walked out of a hospital and leapt to his death. Many times, she had tried to intervene before the life was lost, and then would take it upon herself to try to help family members and fellow officers deal with the tragedy when it inevitably occurred, Norwalk Sgt. Sofia Gulino said Tuesday at a legislative hearing called to explore mental health issues facing police. 

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Tuesday Hearing to Highlight Mental Health Among Law Enforcement

HARTFORD – State police Commissioner James Rovella and local police chiefs from around the state will testify today at a legislative hearing on mental health issues faced by police that is expected to lead to action in the General Assembly session that starts Wednesday.  The hearing before the Public Safety and Security Committee is intended to inform lawmakers about specific challenges related to police work that could be addressed by legislation.  Committee co-chair State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said she would like to see an increase in the availability of mental health services for police who commonly face high rates

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State Troopers Start Ramping Up Enforcement on the Merritt and I-95

Notice more state police parked on the side of the highway or stopping drivers lately?  It’s a sight that may make some driver pulses race, but signals that traffic enforcement by state police is on the rise after dropping by more than 50 percent in 2020. With fewer troopers out sick or in quarantine, and about 100 new troopers on the roads who graduated from the academy and received their field training with an experienced trooper late last year, state police say they have more resources to get back to pre-pandemic enforcement levels. “You have all these factors that started

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Allegations of Cheating, Political Influence Roil State Police Academy

MERIDEN – Allegations of cheating involving eight members of the state police recruit training class now enrolled at the academy are under investigation and could lead to discipline including termination, state police officials confirmed Wednesday to CT Examiner.  At the same time, a debate is intensifying over whether the training program for the 62-member class was shortened by order of Commissioner James Rovella for political reasons as the troopers’ union claims – a charge that police administrators and legislators deny.  “There was no direct order. Nothing’s watered down or shortened,” said Col. Stavros Mellekas, the agency’s highest-ranking commanding officer responsible

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