A federal judge has denied the Connecticut State Police Union’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have barred the agency from releasing certain internal affairs reports now considered public records under the new police accountability law.
The law reverses a key portion of the state police contract approved by the legislature in May 2019 that prohibits the public release of internal affairs documents if the investigation determines the allegations of wrongdoing are unfounded or unsubstantiated.
The union was seeking a temporary restraining order while a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction moves forward. The lawsuit was filed days after the police accountability bill became law in late July.
In a five-page memorandum issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Charles Haight, Jr., concluded that the union had not shown there would be an irreparable harm to union members in the few weeks it would take to hold a preliminary injunction hearing.
Haight ordered the union represented by executive director Andrew Matthews to file a brief in response to the objection to the restraining order filed by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which oversees the state police, by Aug. 28.
The hearing on the injunction will take place Sept. 1 by telephone conference, Haight said.
Legislators did not discuss that portion of the contract when they held a session to review the pay raises and other collective bargaining points before it was unanimously approved.
Critics, including members of the state’s Freedom of Information Commission, pointed out that the contract allows state police to circumvent state Freedom of Information laws and doesn’t add to the public’s trust since no one would be able to scrutinize how the investigations were conducted.
The police accountability bill was largely drafted by the Judiciary Committee co-chairs Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, and Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25.
Floyd’s death, which was captured on video, sparked protests throughout the nation and in Connecticut where advocates for police reform blocked highways and camped out at police departments.
The 65-page law includes new standards for training in de-escalation and for how deadly use of force incidents are investigated, along with other provisions to reform how policing is done in Connecticut.
The portions of the state police contract that were impacted by the law were already the subject of a state labor grievance filed by the union after state police officials under DESPP Commissioner James Rovella were instructed to release the documents.
The union won the grievance with the agency on June 10. The agency is required to ask troopers if the release of a substantiated allegation would be an invasion of privacy. The agency also was required to stop releasing any reports related to allegations that were deemed “unfounded.”