|Dear Friends & Neighbors,
Every vote matters. That is the lesson from the recent Connecticut State House passage of the Police Reform bill that limits Qualified Immunity for Norwalk and New Canaan police officers.
Limiting Qualified Immunity makes police officers more vulnerable to frivolous litigation, plus discourages recruiting and retaining top talent. Our towns could be subject to increased litigation costs. Norwalk and New Canaan residents face the risk of increased crime rates and higher property taxes. This is not about protecting bad cops. However good cops may now become collateral damage.
Connecticut House Republicans sponsored an amendment to keep the current standard. It garnered significant democratic support but failed on a tie vote. My opponent, Lucy Dathan, voted No to the amendment. I would have voted Yes. The switch of that one vote would have been enough to pass it. As mentioned, every vote matters.
The sad part of this vote is how unrelated it is to the quality of the New Canaan and Norwalk police forces. Neither Norwalk nor New Canaan are Minneapolis – yet have been treated like they are.
Both Norwalk and New Canaan have earned national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). CALEA is an umbrella for several national agencies including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. New Canaan has earned this since 1992 while Norwalk has done so since 1995. Norwalk Police Chief Kulhawik is listed on CALEA’s Board of Commissioners.
Both town’s police forces have made longstanding commitments to positive outreach, volunteering and constructive community engagement.
So many of the other reforms in the Police bill enjoy widespread bipartisan support. These include banning the use of chokeholds except when the office life is in danger, body cameras, dashboard cameras, proper officer identification, mental health assessments, drug testing, the new Inspector General, expanded Freedom of Information access to discipline records, accreditation standards and expanded use of social workers.
The switching of just one vote could have made the Police Reform bill something everyone could have gotten behind.