The Day – Republican Party leaders discuss criminal justice reform with Day’s editorial board
Republican state Senate leaders met with The Day’s editorial board on Monday to discuss their plan to tackle what they say is an increase in crime in Connecticut.
State Senator Kevin Kelly’s Republican Leader, R-Stratford, and Senate Republican Pro Tempore Leader Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, guided the board through the plan, which would require additional funding to some programs. The plan would also overturn or amend key provisions of the 2020 Emergency Session Police Accountability Bill. This bill, passed in response to US police following the murder of George Floyd by the Minnesota police force, has been decried by Republicans as needlessly crippling the police.
The plan proposes sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system.
The “crime response” portion of the plan indicates that murders, violent crime and auto theft are on the rise in Connecticut cities including Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury and Middletown.
Democrats, such as State Senator Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the Republican push on crime was meant to instill fear and was for campaign purposes rather than a proposal legislative act in good faith. Democrats say the statistics do not support the Republicans’ claims.
The most recent statistics from the FBI show that Connecticut has the fourth lowest violent crime count in the country. In 2020, the state recorded a 36-year low in violent crime per 100,000 population.
“What is disturbing here is that they are [Democrats] compare Connecticut to other states when we should really compare Connecticut to itself, ”Kelly said. “I’m not saying it’s always been violent, but we are seeing a substantial and significant increase in very violent behavior. You’ve got car hijackings, you’ve got murders, you’ve got gunshots, and you’ve got this violent behavior that’s getting more and more daring and brazen. You need to compare Connecticut year over year and see the trendline. ”
Senate Republican Press Secretary Nicole Rall said Republicans, like Democrats, are using FBI statistics that show auto thefts in 2020 are up 40% from the national average of 11% . Republicans also use bi-weekly crime statistics for Connecticut cities. The latter source can sometimes show small overall increases in murders, for example, which represent high percentage increases. Nevertheless, the number of crimes has increased in some cases in cities across the state.
Republicans are proposing an overnight court for minors, saying the system currently leaves too much time between arrests and court dates. Other proposals include allowing police, prosecutors, public defenders and judges to access juvenile files, “mandatory 24-hour GPS monitoring of minors arrested for violent crimes or repeated offenses then. that they are already awaiting trial for a previous offense, “mandatory fingerprinting for minors in some cases, and to extend or facilitate the transfer of juvenile cases to adult courts. In the case of these transfers, the Republican plan said the change would help “when a minor needs enhanced services and supports available through the adult justice system.”
The plan also provides for an increase in the limit of the holding period of six hours in certain cases. Bryan Cafferelli, legal adviser to the Republican Senate Caucus, said the change would allow police not to have to work against the clock to seek a detention order.
“This in conjunction with the requirement that the minor be presented the next day or the next working day, you can see that it wouldn’t lengthen the six hours much further. There could be an 8 to 12 hour period or a weekend, ”Cafferelli said.
The Connecticut Justice Alliance, an organization that works to end the criminalization of young people, sees the Republican plan as untenable, as evidenced by a statement released last week.
“The data shows incarceration doesn’t work. It causes more harm than good, which impacts mental, physical, and emotional health while reducing the chances of success and opportunity. The solution to fighting crime is not incarceration or increased use of law enforcement, ”the statement said. “The small population of children who repeatedly come into contact with the system does not need to be pushed deeper into the system. They need more service and support from people who can relate to them and provide them with credible advice. “
Republicans have also included in their plan ways to prevent crime through community solutions. The plan offers a summer employment program for at-risk communities. This argues for the end of hidden rental property where the real owner is buried behind LLCs. He proposes to change the housing policies in section 8 so that two-parent households have a better chance of getting help than they currently have.
He calls for funding or better funding programs aimed at helping children who are victims of trauma and absenteeism or who offer mediation or mentoring. The plan addresses workforce development, saying high schools should focus on training students for manufacturing jobs, for example, or promoting entrepreneurship, in addition to preparing students for jobs. college studies.
The plan would increase police funding for social media investigations and data intelligence, and would implement more vigorous efforts to recruit future police officers into colleges and high schools.
“We propose to focus state support on ensuring that funds are available to help police services budget for modernizing intelligence tools,” the plan says.
The plan does not specifically address the recruitment of minority police officers, probation officers, social workers, and teachers, all of whom would be required to execute this plan, but Kelly said such an element “would be something we would certainly be happy to host.”
After a summer of 2020 of protests against racism in the police department and calls to ‘spend the police’ and downsize the police, the Republican plan is doing the opposite as it seeks to correct what they say “Downsizing” the Connecticut police force “due to increased retirements, low recruitments and officers leaving the force prematurely. Other parts of the plan also require funding.
Kelly said there were no clear cost figures yet. In the absence of a special session, Republicans would seek to introduce the bill in February 2022. During preparation, the bill would be forwarded to the Office of Tax Analysis, which would determine the cost.
Formica said the state should use its budget surplus to fund Republican proposals, and federal funds will also be available.
Republicans have an uphill battle to rally Democrats to their plan. They are lobbying for a special legislative session or at least public hearings on the issue.
The Republican plan also aims to revise parts of last year’s Police Accountability Act, which requires officers to report cases of excessive force by co-workers, prohibits strangling in most cases, and overturns some. Qualified immunity protections for officers, thus allowing civil lawsuits against them. in some cases.
The Republican plan seeks to amend the Qualified Immunity Act “to allow government immunity to be a defense, except in cases where an officer acts in a manner showing extreme indifference to human life. “. The plan seeks to “refine the prohibition on searches with consent to allow certain searches” and to “remove the phrase” unreasonable, excessive or “” from state law “to ensure that an officer is not criminally charged. responsible only if he did not intervene in the use by another agent of force if that force constitutes a crime.
Both Formica and Kelly say they want this plan to create an open dialogue and bring the majority party to the table. But they say the police are unable to do their job under the current law.
“Recruitment and retention is reduced among police today, so we need to restore that and introduce the idea of community policing as a career,” Formica said. “Some of the frivolous lawsuits involve members of the police community. This prevents people from staying and certainly from applying.
Formica said it was encouraging that Winfield supported some of the initiatives in the plan, but Democrats generally do not support the plan.
“I haven’t spoken to Democratic lawmakers in Southeast Connecticut, but I’m pretty sure guys like (State Representative and Police Officer) Anthony Nolan will be okay with this. He has done a great job with the children of New London, and he understands the issues of being a peace officer, ”Formica said.
Nolan said he was following the Republican push for criminal justice reform, but had not personally heard from party members. He criticized the way Republicans are defending the proposal.
“If they really wanted to have a conversation, they would have contacted me. They don’t want to have a conversation,” Nolan said Tuesday. “Obviously they’re going to push this for election purposes, and we’re not on that … We understand the issues that are going on in different neighborhoods, but if they were serious they would have contacted me. And they didn’t. ‘have not done. “