Face the Facts

Face the Facts: Police Call for Changes to Bail for Repeat Gun Offenders

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Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo discusses the issue of repeat gun offenders and the changes he and other police chiefs and mayors are calling for when it comes to bail in these cases.

Mike Hydeck: Getting tougher on crimes committed with guns is the goal and part of the solution can start at the State Capitol. That's the opinion coming from a task force that included big city mayors and police chiefs in Connecticut. They actually brought a 10 point plan for legislators to consider this session and try to do something about it. Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo is on that task force. Chief, welcome back to Face the Facts.

Fernando Spagnolo: Thank you, Mike, it's pleasure being here, thank you for for having me.

Mike Hydeck: So getting tougher on repeat offenders, specifically using a gun, is a big focus. Is the task force proposing things like stricter sentencing or higher bonds to do it?

Fernando Spagnolo: So, you know, first of all, it was an extreme pleasure to be invited and an honor to work with the mayors from the four largest cities as well as my counterparts, police chiefs, from those cities throughout the state. We're all focusing on, you know, the serious gun crime that's occurring. We're all suffering from the same problem. So what we looked at was, you know, the the models that were in place, and really trying to bring to light, you know, some practices that we feel that will assist in getting some of these folks held more accountable. Getting some of these folks off the street and, you know, maybe in the care of DOC, where they can receive some some behavioral health and physical health services, and try to change their direction and path away from violence and disruptive violence in their life. We looked at the bond system right now as it stands. You know, in certain cases, if there was a serious repeat offender that was arrested again for a gun violence crime, a serious firearm offense, that person would be posting a percentage of the bond directly with the court. We looked at circumstances where a lot of these folks that we're arresting that have already been convicted of serious violent crimes, that commit a serious firearm offense, are either out on pretrial released or on probation or parole. Hartford and Waterbury share the same numbers. About 70% of the people that we arrested, commit gun violence in our communities over the year 2022, were either out on pretrial release, probation or parole at a time that they committed that that second offense or maybe third offense in some cases. So we are asking that State's Attorneys petition the courts to revoke pretrial release, remand people to custody. We're asking for parole and probation officers to file the appropriate paperwork to violate either probation or parole and get that person back into the system so they can receive some services

Mike Hydeck: That will help probably keep track of them and maybe keep them off the streets a little while longer. If the 10 point strategy is successful, or even maybe some of it is successful, now you're filling up the docket with more and more repeat offenders. Is there any kind of concern about getting these cases heard? Is that going to be a challenge to try to actually adjudicate some of these cases that are now going to be, either they're going to be sitting in jail longer, or they're going to be held somewhere off the streets getting counseling. But you think they're going to be able to get these cases adjudicated?

Fernando Spagnolo: Yeah, so you know, we had folks from from judicial from from the State's Attorney's offices involved in this task force. Chief State's Attorney Patrick Griffin, Waterbury State's Attorney Maureen Platt, and someone who did a tremendous amount of work that I have so much respect for is Sharmese Walcott from Hartford, the Hartford State's Attorney. You know, what we're asking for in this 10 point plan also is a dedicated gun docket in the bigger jurisdictions, Waterbury, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, that would provide dedicated judges, dedicated Assistant State's Attorneys to operate those gun dockets, you know, on a very frequent basis to have the same set of eyes continuously on those dockets to make sure that they were getting the attention that they need. And they were going through the system as expeditiously as possible.

Mike Hydeck: So what about the root causes of crime. Say I commit a crime and I'm on my second or third offense with a firearm. It could be because I have a drug habit; it could be because I was brought up in a broken home and I have no place to live. What do you do as far as trying to support some of these offenders so they can actually change their circumstances and maybe not commit these crimes?

Fernando Spagnolo: So this is a small part of of the whole global look at, you know, serious gun crime occurring in our urban communities throughout the state. There are currently a lot of programs that operate in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury that focus on folks being released back into our communities from the care of the Department of Corrections, as well as violence interruption in programs such as Project Longevity, where we seek out people that are at high risk, you know, we're using all of the data that we have available. We're using academia to look at that data and provide reports for us. And we're working with social service coordinators and all the social services that are available through not only government, but through nonprofit organizations and our communities, to try to reach out to these folks and change that direction of travel. That can include of education, whether it's GED or higher education, job training, job placement, behavioral health, substance abuse counseling, and physical health accessibility.

Mike Hydeck: Last question. I got a little under a minute. First, how was that presentation received by lawmakers? And then where does it go from here? Are you expecting to meet again and are you asking for something specific on a timeline?

Fernando Spagnolo: So, you know, all four mayors, you know, my mayor especially, very, very great guy to work with, and very connected and networked throughout the state and, you know, under the under the Capitol dome. You know, Mayor Bronin, it was such a pleasure to work with him. He's such a brilliant man, and really was the one that drove this project and put this package together. You know, I know there's been a lot of conversations with the legislative body of the state as well as the governor. The governor stood by our sides in full support of this. So I'm very confident that it's going to get the attention it needs. And I'm hoping that we can have a lot of open conversation and folks can realize that this is to make our community safer, and a better place to live.

Mike Hydeck: Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo, thanks for joining us on Face the Facts. Looking forward to seeing what comes from this task force as it goes throughout the session. We appreciate your time.

Fernando Spagnolo: Thank you, Mike.

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