community policing

Work Continues in Building Police-Community Relations

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We’re nearly a year from the signing of police accountability law in Connecticut and some say it’s a good start while others say it needs more work.

“I think the police accountability bill is helpful. There are some things in it that I really appreciate,” said Lorenzo Boyd, University of New Haven Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Boyd says he thinks the duty to intervene portion is helpful, although he says he’s unsure why there needs to be legislature to “tell the police to intervene when people are doing things wrong.”

He works on police and community relations around the state and says the law is a good first step.

“There’s not going to be one piece of legislation that’s going to fix this because we have to fix culture more than policy,” Boyd said.

Yale University Police Chief Ronnell Higgins says the law has opened the doors for conversation on how to improve that culture.

On the anniversary of George Floyd's murder, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins reflects on the the last year and what it means to be African American and a leader in law enforcement.

“We’re listening to hear, versus listening to respond to some of our critics, and also others have joined the conversation,” Higgins said.

The death of George Floyd was a watershed moment for the country, he added. And as a Black chief of police, Floyd’s death put into perspective the unique position many officers of color face.

“When it became time for me to become a police officer I realized early on that in some instances you’re not Black enough and other instances you’re not blue enough,” said Higgins.  

But as a Black leader in law enforcement, he says it’s about your values personally and on the job.

“As long as you are adhering to those values and you are continuously working to achieve success within your organization and build trust within your community, that’s what it’s all about,” said Higgins.  

He says the goal is understanding the communities that departments serve and knowing the nuances that exist, like understanding police uniforms don’t always make people feel safe.

“I’m talking about something well beyond community policing. I’m talking about achieving community wellness,” Higgins said.

He says that includes mental and emotional health and building those strong community bonds.

But there is concern among some community groups that the law doesn’t go far enough.

“The police accountability bill continues to be watered down and police unions and the police continue to make attacks to water down the bill,” said Ivelisse Correa, CFO of BLM 860. “As long as there are things such as qualified immunity for police, we will continue to have that lower standard of accountability that truly is present in policing.”

Higgins says the state is on the right track to improve community relations in policing. He says many of the elements in the police reform legislation were being discussed before it was signed, and the state has a lead over others on police training.

But he says there’s more work to be done.

“[We have] to make certain our practices in the field are in alignment with our policies and that we continue to evolve,” Higgins said.

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