HARTFORD, CT – Police officers from across the state turned out in large numbers Thursday to protest parts of the police accountability legislation, which was still under negotiation as of 2 p.m.
It’s one of four bills the House is expected to debate during a historic one-day special session that involves social distancing, masks, and political unrest outside the state Capitol, which was closed to the public.
Andrew Matthews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, said the Democratic majority in the General Assembly must have forgotten how close Republicans got in 2016 to taking over the Senate.
While it wasn’t necessarily a political rally, there were vendors selling Trump paraphenalia and some officers wearing Trump baseball caps.
Matthews said there’s no police officer who condones what happened in Minneapolis.
“It’s real easy to attack us,” Matthews said. “The very people who are willing to die for the state of Connecticut.”
Sen. Gary Winfield, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, uploaded a tearful live Facebook video expressing his disappointment in how the legislation has been watered down.
The proposed legislation calls for an independent body under the Division of Criminal Justice to investigate deadly police use of force incidents, requires officers to undergo regular mental health and drug screening, and gives the state’s Police Standards and Training Council the power to “decertify” police officers for wrongdoing.
Winfield spoke in a Facebook live video about how his activism on this topic began several years ago.
He talked about his son and daughter and the future he’s leaving for them.
“They certainly shouldn’t have to worry about the people who are there to protect them,” Winfield said.
He said the fight is “about the power we have given them and how we’ve allowed them to use that power.”
He said even after the bill passes “the fight is not over.”
He said he understands the form the bill is currently in, is the form it has to pass.
Republicans in the House believe the issue of qualified immunity should be discussed, but not part of the legislation.
“This is a serious issue that should take many months to look into,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said. “Then we should come back next session and deal with it.”
As far as government immunity “the cons far outweigh the pros,” Klarides said. “Police officers leave their home every morning wondering if they’re going to be back to see their family at night.”
She said officers can be sued now for egregious behavior.
“I think there are too many consequences in this bill without qualified immunity,” Klarides said.
She said the legislation has evolved over the past few days and developed more problems.
The police protest was only one of seven.
Nursing home and home care workers rallied at the Capitol to express their desire to see the General Assembly take up legislation to ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, accountability of state officials and employers, and respect for workers who denounce hazardous situations from the front lines.
Black Lives Matter protesters were also at the Capitol.