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    Friday, September 29, 2023

    Police in Conn. agree to moratorium on acquiring military equipment

    HARTFORD (AP) — Connecticut police chiefs agreed Tuesday to not acquire additional surplus military equipment from the federal government for the next 90 days, citing public concerns about police conduct in the wake of the killings of black Americans by law enforcement.

    The moratorium was announced by the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, which represents more than 100 municipal and university police chiefs across the state. The move came a day after Gov. Ned Lamont barred state police from acquiring federal military equipment until further notice.

    “This is in response to the community’s concern about the over-militarization of police,” said Milford Police Chief Keith Mello, president of the association.

    Protests calling for police reforms and denouncing racial injustice have been held nationwide since the May 25 death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the black man's neck for nearly nine minutes. The shooting death of another black man, Rayshard Brooks, by Atlanta police on Friday heightened tensions between communities and law enforcement.

    Floyd's death has prompted many state and local governments to consider police reforms, including changes to use of force policies such as banning chokeholds and requiring more deescalation training. Also Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order he said would encourage better police practices nationwide.

    Mello added, however, that police sometimes need military equipment and it is important to have policies on when to use it. He also said police chiefs will be reviewing what equipment is appropriate for their departments.

    “Police officers are guardians of our community and guardians of our democracy,” Mello said. “And they need to have that mindset. But they also need the skills and tenacity to respond to the sometimes violent interactions without hesitation.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said Monday that temporarily banning police from acquiring military equipment does not go far enough toward meaningful reform and leaves the door open for future acquisitions of military gear.

    Lamont, a Democrat, responded to the police chiefs' moratorium during a news conference Tuesday.

    “I don’t think they need this military-style equipment,” he said. "I hope their pause is a lot longer than 90 days.”

    Mello on Tuesday also took part in a meeting of the state's Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force, which is compiling recommendations on statewide police reforms to present to state lawmakers. The meeting began with a moment of silence to remember Brooks.

    The task force voted unanimously to further study proposals in a preliminary report including creating an independent authority to investigate police use-of-force incidents, banning chokeholds and other neck restraints and examining labor contract sections that make it hard to fire unfit officers.

    The panel, which includes police officials and community activists, plans to hold community discussions about the proposals in the coming weeks.

    Task force co-chairman Daryl McGraw, a community activist and founder of a criminal justice consulting organization, said police reforms won't happen overnight and much thought and study needs to go into making recommendations to lawmakers for a possible special legislative session this summer.

    “As an African-American male, this is a pivotal moment for us and our country,” he said. “Systematic racism is a sickness ... and we need to do everything in our power to get rid of it, to address it. We need to do everything that’s in our power so that ... we’re not on the news because an officer killed someone. Here we have an opportunity to hopefully lead the charge in the country and prevent this from happening.”

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