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The New Police Department Disestablishment Reform Bill

Looney and Winfield
Looney and Winfield

After George Floyd was murdered by a police officer -- while other officers placidly watched as the murder victim pleaded “I can’t breathe” and, six to eight minutes into his death spiral, desperately called out to his mother with nearly his last breath – there were, as might be expected, protests across the nation. In some cases legitimate protests were hijacked by ANTIFA and leftist pseudo-Marxists within the Black Lives Matter movement.

One of the results of the roiling agitation is what is being called by most media in Connecticut “the new police reform bill,” the brain child of, among others, Gary Winfield, a Democrat State Senator representing Connecticut’s 10th District.

Winfield is a talented politician who has managed to rack up several important wins, pun intended. Freshman senator Winfield was the lead sponsor of a bill abolishing the death penalty. The bill was vetoed by the governor, but the State Supreme Court years later pronounced the death penalty unconstitutional and it was subsequently abolished by the General Assembly, which retained the penalty in the cases of nearly a dozen convicted murderers awaiting punishment on death row. These sentences were later vacated and reduced to life in prison without parole by the same Supreme Court Justices that had abolished the death penalty.

Winfields’s Wikipedia biography, written by a friendly hand, tells us he was “the driving force behind a bill which put in place protections for Transgender citizens in public accommodations.” The bill permitted men who had declared themselves to be women to use women’s dressing rooms, public showers, bathroom facilities and other amenities formerly reserved for what used to be called in kinder and gentler days “the fair sex.” Some critics of second and third wave feminism have been inclined to style over-the-top feminists as “the unfair sex.”

Winfield was also the force behind the TRUST ACT which was the first statewide passage of such a bill in the country, several police accountability bills, the first in the nation racial and ethnic impact statement on demand without restrictions, and [a] prosecutorial transparency bill along with several other progressive wins.”

Connecticut’s TRUST ACT, passed unanimously in the General Assembly, bars “police from detaining someone solely for immigration issues,” according to Immigrations Impact. “The bill allows local governments to detain an individual at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only if the person has a serious or violent felony conviction.”

What one might call the Winfield provision of the House approved police reform bill – a section that abolishes partial immunity for all police officers in the state – has been roundly criticized by Connecticut Republicans,  police chiefs and some few Democrat legislators who believe that holding municipalities and individual police officers legally responsible for suits filed against officers, frivolous or merited, will severely reduce police recruitment, especially in large Connecticut cities such as New Haven, Winfield’s political home turf,  while passing along the extremely expensive costs of such litigation to municipalities or individual officers.

Prior to the affirmative vote in the House, the police chiefs warned, “There is not and cannot be an alternative to this for any police officer or agency. We strongly believe that the loss of qualified immunity will destroy our ability to recruit, hire, and retain qualified police officers both now and in the foreseeable future. We are also very concerned about losing our current personnel at a higher rate than we normally can replace. Any impact on our ability to recruit qualified personnel in general will also impact our minority recruitment efforts, which is a goal in this bill that we strongly support.”

An amendment withdrawing the Winfield provision and retaining other major reforms in the bill failed to pass on a tie vote in the House, one Republican having jumped the barricades. The House then adjourned, preventing the Senate from adjusting the bill, which is due for an up or down vote in a few days. Republicans and Democrats who vote down the bill doubtless will be accused, during the upcoming elections, of being race insensitive or, worse, racists. All of this, non-partisan political watchers in Connecticut – assuming there are any non-partisan reportorial troops left in the age of Trump and Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi, both polarizing figures – may be the result of political calculation.

Henry David Thoreau warns us that some seemingly disconnected actions are not circumstantial – “as, for instance, when you find a fish in the milk pail.” The Winfield provision, a fish in the police reform milk pail, may have been inserted in the police department disestablishment bill for campaign reasons.

CTMirror reports, “Not only could a rollback of legal immunity for police make it impossible for communities to secure affordable insurance coverage, said Joe DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, but it could also ultimately impose a huge financial burden on some of the state’s poorest communities.

“’One bad case could mean tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, all at the whim of a jury or the court system,’ DeLong told the CT Mirror. ‘It’s a level of risk I think many are not going to take in the marketplace.’”

It is by no means reassuring that only the Democrat dominated Senate and Democrat Governor Ned Lamont stand as firewalls, between what may be a successful Democrat campaign gambit and diminished and poorer police departments and municipalities. Lamont has said he would sign the present House bill as is, provided it is passed by the Democrat dominated Senate. The president of the Senate is New Haven based Martin Looney, and the President of the Senate is Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Connecticut’s Nancy Pelosi.


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