HARTFORD, CT – Activists, including a former lawmaker, joined with faith leaders Wednesday to call on Gov. Ned Lamont to convene a special session of the legislature to address police brutality.
Former state Rep. Ken Green, who spent 16 years in the House of Representatives, tried to offer some of the younger protesters some advice on how to approach the issue.
“These things that are going on today are not new. This was happening 30 years ago, 40 years ago, 100 years ago,” Green said. “I think we might be – because we always want to be hopeful and I always want to be hopeful – we might be at a point where some serious conversation is being made and being had to really talk about some changes.”
Green said the government will provide one part of that change.
He said it’s an election year for state representatives and state senators. He said every single one of them should be holding community meetings to explain what the executive order means, what the legislation from the Police Accountability and Transparency Task Force will be, and what does it do to hold police accountable.
Green said lawmakers need to get the input from the community before they come back into special session.
“Once they come up in special session the deal is done,” Green said. “If they call them back to vote the deal is done.”
He said the community needs to know what’s in the deal before they come back. He said if activists are waiting for lawmakers to tell them what’s in the legislation, then they’re not going to have the input they want before the deal is done.
Green stressed that these questions need to be asked now.
“Any piece of legislation has to be more than banning chokeholds,” Green said.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter said earlier this week that they expect to convene a special session in early July.
Gov. Ned Lamont said he would convene a special session once he was able to find a consensus on the issue.
The session is expected to deal with police accountability and absentee ballots for November.
Lamont signed an executive order this week that prohibits State Police from using chokeholds. It also requires the agency to update its manual to require troopers to de-escalate situations before using force. It requires troopers to intervene to stop another law enforcement officer from using excessive force.
The ACLU of Connecticut, however, said the executive order “does nothing to end police violence or racism.”
“At a time when people across Connecticut and the country are calling for divestment from policing and for meaningful action to end police violence and racism inherent in policing, Lamont has issued an executive order that proposes increasing policing, leaves the door open for future militarization by police, and allows police to continue policing themselves. Internal police policies are enforced by and for police themselves, yet Lamont’s order merely requires the state police to review their internal policies on uses of force,” Melvin Medina, public policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Connecticut, said in a statement.
Green said the legislation pertaining to police accountability, which has yet to be drafted, will still be meaningless if it doesn’t include consequences for bad behavior by police.
“Demand the behavior of the police be changed,” Green told the small crowd. “So accountability has to be not only about the legislation banning chokeholds and writing reports in a certain amount of time and making sure you keep your body camera on. They have been doing those things. Body cameras have caught police acting inappropriate. They haven’t stopped them from the behavior and the culture of the police department. That has to change.”
Ashley Evans, a Yale student, asked what the next step is after the community issues its demands.
“I don’t think it’s legislation,” Evans said. “We need people to lose their jobs and by people, I mean prosecutors and judges.”
Green said the legislation lays out policy and part of what they need to be talking about is the criminal justice budget for the state of Connecticut, which includes police, prosecutors, and prisons.
“I’m hoping that we’re at a point where you get past just the rhetoric. You’re going to see what exactly changes,” Green said.
He said the community has to get together and hold lawmakers accountable for the legislation they are planning by requiring them to report to the community. He suggested a report every six months for the first three years.