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News from State Senator Tim Larson

August 3, 2016

Capitol address
Legislative Office Building
Room 3600
Hartford, CT 06106-1591

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Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

Community Policing
I recently spent 90 minutes talking with nearly four dozen people about police-community relations during a public forum at the Mark Twain House titled "From Trayvon to Philando: Lessons We've Learned."

The discussion touched on America's history of racial injustice; recent national acts of police brutality (and deadly shootings) against minorities and the resulting revenge attacks against police; Connecticut's history of minority deaths at the hands of police officers; and recent Connecticut legislation that has been passed in an effort to provide more transparency and accountability for police interactions with people of color.

The last high-profile case in Connecticut of a white police officer shooting and killing an unarmed black male was in May 2005--11 years ago--in Hartford. A decade without such another heinous incident speaks well to Connecticut's present state of community-police relations, but it doesn't mean we have to let our guard down when it comes to maintaining and improving relations between police departments and the minority community.

I'm not one who believes you have to be either 'pro-police' or 'pro-minority community.' Our police departments have a tough job to do every day, and their actions are examined very closely by the press and the public. But there is no denying that minority citizens in many other U.S. states have recently been killed or otherwise wronged, and our nation's history of police actions against our minority citizens is fraught with racism and injustice.

Part of that job of maintaining and improving these relations falls to the legislature--not just attending community talks like I did last week, but passing important and relevant new laws and regulations, too.

I'm proud to say that in 2015, I voted for a very comprehensive bill called "An Act Concerning Excessive Use of Force." This new law made a number of changes in law enforcement agencies' use of body cameras, use-of-force investigations, hiring practices, and liability in certain lawsuits. I think it's made a difference in how police conduct themselves when interacting with the public.

For instance, we gave state grants to some police departments to buy body cameras and then electronically store the images for a period of time in case there were any lawsuits or accusations of police misconduct. A lot of local police departments won't undertake this big expense without some financial help from the state or federal government.

When a police shooting takes place, the new law requires the chief state's attorney to either designate a prosecutor from a judicial district other than the one where the incident occurred, or appoint a special assistant state's attorney to the case. This will help prevent any perceived conflicts of interest, since local police departments and prosecutors often team up and develop personal relationships.

The new law requires the hiring, training and promotion of more minority police officers. The new law also prevents police departments from hiring police officers from other towns or states who were fired for disciplinary reasons.

Maintaining good police-community relations is vital for any town and any state. People will only respect the law when it respects them, when it is applied fairly and impartially, not when it is delivered with callousness or perhaps even racism. Connecticut has been on a good path for the past decade, and I am working hard on a number of fronts to keep it that way!


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Senator Tim Larson, Legislative Office Building, Room 3600, Hartford, Connecticut 06106
Capitol telephone: 860-240-0511

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