State lawmakers consider bill to cover police complaints
Hartford - Connecticut lawmakers are considering imposing new requirements on police departments statewide on how they receive and investigate complaints from residents alleging misconduct by officers.
Legislators have drafted a bill that they say is in response to several police departments not accepting or investigating complaints about inappropriate behavior by officers. The Judiciary Committee approved the bill last week, and it awaits action in the House and Senate.
The committee singled out East Haven police for not accepting complaints about racial profiling. Such complaints led to a U.S. Justice Department investigation that began in 2009 and found a pattern of discrimination and biased policing in East Haven, particularly against Latinos. The probe led to four town officers being sentenced to prison and police being required to make improvements as part of a 2012 consent decree.
A federal report earlier this year said East Haven had made "remarkable" progress in fixing the problems and commended Police Chief Brent Larrabee and his management team.
Larrabee, who became chief in 2012, said Monday that he disagrees with the committee's characterization of his department, calling it too broad. He said most town officers were never accused of wrongdoing in the federal investigation.
He also took issue with the committee saying in a report that bill was partly in response to "East Haven Police Department's profiling of residents and not accepting their complaints."
"I'm not sure where they're coming up with that information, other than the indictment (of the four officers)," Larrabee said. "That certainly has not been the practice or the policy of the department."
State Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, co-sponsored the bill. A message seeking comment was left for her Monday.
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, told the Judiciary Committee in February that Connecticut needs statewide standards for how police departments accept and investigate complaints.
"In the past year, the ACLU of Connecticut has heard from many people who had trouble filing complaints about police misconduct with police departments in Connecticut," Schneider said.
The ACLU said a study it did in 2012 found that many police departments had barriers to accepting police misconduct complaints from residents.
"Some departments don't make complaint forms available to the public," Schneider said. "Most refuse to accept anonymous complaints and many impose time limits on receiving complaints and many require sworn statements and threaten criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit for false statements."
The bill would require the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council, which runs the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden, to develop and implement a policy on how police departments should handle complaints alleging misconduct by officers. It also would require police departments to implement that policy, or a similar one that meets standards spelled out in the bill.
The council would have to consider whether to allow anonymous complaints and whether to include protections for people who file complaints, under the bill.
Cromwell Police Chief Anthony Salvatore, secretary and treasurer for the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, told the Judiciary Committee that the association doesn't oppose the bill.
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