Baldwin — Police reform bill will impede police, hurt recruitment and retention
Editor’s note — This statement was sent to all four members of Trumbull’s legislative delegation.
My name is Raymond G. Baldwin Jr. and I serve as the Chairman of the Trumbull Police Commission and I’m also a member of the Connecticut Police Commissioners’ Association.
Along with the Ct. Chiefs of Police Association and our CT police officers (State & Local), unions and PBAs, I wish to express my serious concern about legislation being proposed in the CT State Legislature which I believe will greatly impede our police officers’ ability to protect, not only our citizens, but our officers themselves. These proposed measures will also make recruitment of new officers and the retention of currently employed ones extremely difficult.
Specifically the elimination of qualified immunity is ill conceived and will cause officers to either not act when they should or hesitate when time is critical putting themselves and our citizens at risk. The current law already addresses willful and wanton conduct and, as an attorney and retired police officer, that language is sufficient enough to guard against improper police behavior.
Another area of concern is the elimination of the use of a choke hold except to prevent death. Anyone who has ever been in a struggle with a combative suspect knows that a hard and fast rule like this one just isn’t practical. These struggles don’t have “referees” and the line between protecting your life and possible abuse is a fine one -it should not be judged without consideration for the officer’s state of mind.
Next, the differentiation between minor and priority traffic stops just doesn’t make any sense at all unless 1. you’re going to assign DMV Inspectors to each city/town in the State to enforce minor offenses or 2. You eliminate minor offenses from the law altogether. If the legislature believes these laws aren’t important enough to enforce for public safety then get rid of them. Be prepared however for a rise in motor vehicle accidents and the injuries/ deaths associated with them.
Local police departments can no longer purchase military type equipment or night vision devices? Maybe I missed something but have hostage situations, school shootings, off road & water rescues ceased to occur in Connecticut? Does criminal activity end when the sun goes down? How are police officers supposed to conduct nighttime surveillance or monitor criminal behavior in their communities? These are simply tools which are necessary to do the job we ask our officers to do.
These are but a few of some of the legislative reactions to recent occurrences in our country which unfortunately not are not well thought out.
Should the police be held accountable for their actions-absolutely. Should all citizens be treated fairly without prejudice-absolutely. Should training and recruitment be sensitive to the times and a reflection of the community-absolutely. But any changes must be done in a thoughtful manner taking into account their long term consequences and ramifications.
Our association stands ready to assist this process in any way we can.
Raymond G. Baldwin Jr., chairman
Trumbull Police Commission