After a failed attempt at an appointment last fall, the state Criminal Justice Commission is again accepting applications for the first Inspector General to investigate deadly use of force incidents by police and in-custody deaths.
Attorneys with at least three years of experience practicing law and extensive experience in conducting investigations and providing leadership must apply by Aug. 31.
The job was created by the 2020 police accountability law but has been in limbo since September, when the commission deadlocked on the two prosecutors from the Division of Criminal Justice vying for the position.
Under the original legislation, only prosecutors from the division were allowed to apply. Advocates for independent investigations into the deadly use of force called for a broader range of candidates since state prosecutors often work side-by-side with the police they now would have to investigate.
Gov. Ned Lamont signed a separate law in May that opened up the qualifications to include attorneys with investigatory experience who work outside of the division. The person who is hired will be considered the third deputy chief state’s attorney, so they will have prosecutorial powers. However, the position is considered independent from the Division. The law that passed in May also requires the chair of the commission to select a candidate if another deadlock occurs.
Qualified civil rights attorneys, federal prosecutors and even judges are now able to apply, said Supreme Court Associate Justice Andrew McDonald, who chairs the commission.
“We’re using a longer period of time than normal because we are encouraging as many qualified applicants to apply as possible,” McDonald said. “Hopefully we will get a lot of non-traditional candidates.”
McDonald is trying to get the word out through the press since he has almost no budget to advertise. The application process and the job posting are on the commission’s website.
The inspector general is expected to conduct extensive investigations into deadly use of force incidents and then determine if police were justified in applying deadly force under state statutes. If it is determined that an officer was not justified, the inspector general can bring criminal charges and would prosecute the case.
The Office of the Inspector General is expected to conduct about 25 investigations a year including examinations of in-custody deaths that occur at municipal police departments and within the state Department of Correction.
Members of the American Civil Liberties Union Connecticut Chapter have called for several years for independent investigations of deadly use of police force. The investigations are currently done by a state’s attorney from a different district than where the deadly event occurred, and the results have overwhelmingly exonerated police. In some cases, the investigations have taken years and the family of the person who died has gone without any formally released information.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” David McGuire, executive director of the state ACLU, said in April before the bill became law. “A lot of this involves getting the right person and making sure the office is well-funded. This is the next step, the question is, can we create an independent office? Only time will tell.”
The commission is required under the law to make the appointment for a four-year term by Oct. 1. McDonald said that candidates who are invited will participate in public interviews, in accordance with state law, likely sometime in September. The salary is $167,183 a year.