Police Accountability

‘Back the Blue' Rally Draws Support For Police Outside the State Capitol

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While some in law enforcement say they support efforts to improve training and transparency, there are several parts of the police accountability bill they don't like and want to see taken out.

"You can't have people hesitating to take action to save the life of others,” said Andy Matthews, executive director of the Connecticut State Police Union.

Some who wear the badge fear that will happen if major changes aren't made to the bill being taken up in this special session.

“You’re going to see quality cops just flee the state,” said Stephen Estes, a 29-year police officer.

"You're not going to be able to get anybody to come and do this job,” added State Police Trooper Curt Booker.

Booker was one of many African American police officers who participated in Thursday’s rally.

If passed in its current form, police officers would no longer be protected from civil suits. The use of deadly force would also be limited and officers could face disciplinary action for not deescalating the situation.

Officers at the rally said the police accountability laws already on the books are working.

"The bill's not necessary. There's no need for the bill. There's no need for the bill at all,” said Booker.

"As someone who's had to investigate bad cops and those investigations led to arrests of bad cops, I can tell you you find one, you investigate them you arrest them you get rid of them, done deal,” Estes explained.

Officers' families and members of the public joined the rally that circled the State Capitol for nearly two hours. Many chanted “Back the Blue.”

"I'm worried about every police officer, every single police officer. I'm worried about everybody. This is ridiculous,” said Tina Listro, who said her son is a police officer.

"African Americans do not hate the police,” said Ernestine Holloway of Meriden.  "If something happens, I don't want to see a social worker, I want to see a police officer."

Back the Blue Attracts Counter-Protesters

“I don't believe in the concept of backing the blue when the blue doesn't back me personally,” said Kynnyah Schultz.

As lawmakers continued to negotiate language in the bill, some worried it will be watered down and ineffective.

"If you are afraid of being held accountable for your actions, then you shouldn't be an officer,” said Michael Oretade, head of Black Lives Matter 860.

The bill calls for an inspector general to review deadly use of force cases. It also requires the purchase and use of body camera footage by local police departments, as well as storage of the footage for three years, which critics argue amounts to defunding of police.

The State Police Union says it supports the bill’s efforts to improve transparency.

“Body cameras, dashboard cameras, training, we get it. We’re all for it,” said Matthews. “Any cop that unjustifiably takes someone’s life deserves to be arrested.”

Matthews said the bill overreaches in other areas, such as requiring police officers to exhaust every alternative before using deadly force, called the reasonably objective standard.

“If they don’t use their baton, their taser, their verbal judo, etc., are they gonna face criminal prosecution now? It isn’t clear,” he said.

Another point of contention: qualified immunity. Right now, the state statute prevents officers from being held personally liable for misconduct. This bill in its current form, which is still being negotiated, gets rid of that protection.

“Officers are going to be under more scrutiny. They won’t make the same mistakes,” said Oretade.

“If I’m going to be held accountable if I injure someone, murder someone, assault someone, they need to be also especially if they’re trying to enforce the law,” added Schultz.

Counter-protesters called for social justice and defunding of police departments.

Those who wear the badge say it will have a damaging effect on police departments across the state.

“My biggest concern is that police officers are going to hesitate at the moment of truth and they’re going to end up getting killed,” said Booker.

“What this state needs and what this country needs is more funding for police,” said Estes. “That whole bill should go in the garbage can where it belongs.”

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