Lamont bans state police chokeholds, orders other reforms
Chokeholds and other tactics that restrict breathing are now banned from use by Connecticut State Police under a sweeping executive order Gov. Ned Lamont signed Monday in the post-George Floyd racial reconciliation.
The order also ends or pauses the purchase of military and military-style equipment from the federal government by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection; requires every uniformed state police trooper and marked vehicle be equipped with a camera by Jan. 1, 2021; and revises the state’s use-of-force policy.
Lamont, in remarks delivered outside his residence in Hartford Monday afternoon, said he knows lawmakers expect to address policing issues in a special session this summer, “but I don’t want to wait another minute” to increase police accountability and transparency in Connecticut.
“It’s been a couple of weeks since George Floyd’s murder,” Lamont said, pausing to recognize the peaceful protests that have occurred across the state and country in recent weeks. “Police accountability is about trust and good police work doesn’t work without trust and trust doesn’t work unless police has the word community in it.”
Lamont’s order is a response to protests and demonstrations following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis as a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Lamont also said he’s moving to diversify the state police force, which is 80 percent white male. A new class is 60 percent white male — still not good enough, he said, but it represents progress.
It appears many of the initiatives in the executive order — such as a web portal documenting police acts of force — were already underway in the state police, but Lamont’s order codifies them as orders. He and three lawmakers, including the co-chairmen of the General Assembly’s public safety committee, said they hoped to see legislation locking in the orders as soon as this summer.
The order only applies to the state police, but Lamont and the legislators said they will work to make the new rules apply to municipal departments.
State Sen. Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport, praised Lamont’s executive order and pledged the support of the legislature in future reforms, while Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, a retired police officer, called the announcement significant.
“This is the first step of many I look forward to working with the governor and my fellow legislators in working on police reforms,” Verrengia said. “I think it’s important to take a moment to recognize that Connecticut has been a leader when it comes to reforms and we’ve implemented major changes as a result ... but what this incident makes us realize is that we can do more.”
A reform bill last year, for example, restricted but did not ban choke holds and other maneuvers.
Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, chairman of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said that group and others will work with Lamont on further legislation that “really hears the community voices that we hear at the rallies and the protests and not just a policy that we’re passing to pass something.”
“The work really starts, ya’ll, today, and there’s a lot of work we need to get done to prepare for a special session,” McGee said.
Asked whether he had worked with Republican legislators on the order, Lamont said he believed it had broad support.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut slammed the executive order in a written statement, saying it does nothing to end police violence or racism.
“The people of Connecticut deserve much better than Lamont’s order, which amounts to lukewarm heat and no light,” said Melvin Medina, public policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Connecticut. “The Connecticut General Assembly must come back into session to accomplish the things Lamont has refused to do, including reducing the role and size of policing in our state, creating an equitable COVID-19 response plan, and decarcerating prisons and jails.”
Many advocates for reform favor removing incident review powers from local police departments with new boards that would have subpoena powers. That change could not be done in an executive order and would require significant debate, state officials said.
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