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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    New approach to police shooting a positive change

    The aftermath of two recent police shootings in southeastern Connecticut demonstrates that the creation of an Office of Inspector General has significantly increased public information about such incidents.

    Granted, it is too soon to judge whether the new office, which in 2021 took over investigations into the use of deadly force by police, will result in increased public confidence that the actions of officers will be impartially assessed and that those officers who act wrongly will be held accountable.

    In its first two years, however, the office led by Inspector General Robert J. Devlin Jr. is off to a good start. The office provides quick access to information when incidents take place. That in turn bolsters confidence when the inspector general reaches conclusions as to whether police were justified in resorting to deadly force.

    In creating the office, the legislature acted in response to increased frustration and alarm that police were too quick, in a disturbingly high number of cases, to act with deadly force, particularly during interactions with Black individuals. The evidence before the legislature also showed that too often the tendency within police ranks was to cover up and find excuses for police actions.

    In Connecticut such incidents were subject to internal police investigations and a review by the state’s attorneys, who are the prosecutors that work closely with police in bringing criminal defendants to justice. It was an inherent conflict of interest. In finding wrongdoing by an officer, a prosecutor was being put in a position to bite the hand that fed when it came to putting bad guys behind bars.

    The new Office of Inspector General acts independently.

    In New London on Nov. 26, city police went searching for 42-year-old Christopher Nolan after he had reportedly fired a gun from a hotel window. When officers tracked him down in another hotel room, “An occupant … allowed police to enter. Once inside, officers observed Nolan pressed against the window in an apparent effort to escape so as to elude arrest. Officers observed a gun in Nolan’s hand and when he turned toward them” the three responding officers fired their weapons.

    Nolan was struck several times but survived.

    The public learned these details in a press release from the inspector general three days after the incident. The office also released body-camera footage.

    On Dec. 21 in Stonington, State police troopers fatally shot Vaughn R. Malloy, 42, after he ran down a street trying to escape. Police had an arrest warrant from an April 28, 2022 incident in Norwich in which Malloy allegedly fired a gun into a home, striking a female victim. Police also had a search warrant. The suspect was considered dangerous.

    When Malloy made a run for it, “a Connecticut State Police canine was deployed to apprehend him. Simultaneously, Tactical Unit personnel deployed two less lethal impact munitions at Malloy. Malloy fell to the ground and was engaged by the canine. During this engagement, Malloy fired several rounds at the canine and troopers striking a police vehicle and killing … the canine.”

    Several troopers returned fire, killing the suspect.

    Those details were released in a preliminary status report six days after the shooting. And, again, body-worn camera recordings were promptly released.

    The Office of Inspector General is continuing its investigations of both cases.

    Such quick access to information is in stark contrast to how such matters were typically handled prior to the creation of the new office. Police were often slow to release any details, using the excuse that incidents were under investigation. This approach fed speculation and, among some, suspicion that things were being covered up.

    The transparent approach of the inspector general, which is in line with the legislation, is a welcome improvement. The universal use of police body cameras greatly contributes to this transparency. It is good for the public, which has a right to know, and it is good for those police who act appropriately under the most difficult of circumstances.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.