Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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Lamont Signs Police Reforms, But Tells Cops, ‘You’re My Heroes’

Lamont and Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, name-checked the ranking Republican members of the committee, Rep. Rosa Rebimbas of Naugatuck and Sen. John Kissel of Enfield, as partners in every step of producing the new law — save the final one.

The Republicans voted against the final product.

Bysiewicz, Stafstrom, Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, the other Judiciary co-chair, and Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, joined Lamont at the State Capitol. Others participated via video conferencing, including Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, a former police chief, and Rep. Anthony Nolan of New London, a police officer and member of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

“I love the way you started with a big table, and I thought that was really important,” Lamont said. “I want to thank Rep. Rebimbas, as well, and Sen. Kissel, who were at that table. I think at the end of the day, we all understand how important it was and what a big step this is.”

To the police, the governor said, “You’re my heroes.”

Lamont noted that the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the catalyst for the reform legislation adopted in Connecticut, generated both an outpouring of support across the U.S. for Black Lives Matter — and violent clashes between police and protesters.

“That didn’t happen in Connecticut. That didn’t happen, because the protesters were there representing the very best in our values, and the police were there with respect. That’s what makes for a great police force and community policing,” Lamont said. “I think we led by example as a state, and for that I am eternally grateful.”

Lamont’s chief of staff, general counsel and policy director met Thursday with unions representing the State Police and officers in Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury in an effort to assuage concerns and listen to the case for changes that could come before key provisions of the new law take effect next year.

“Look, it’s important to continue to build bridges. There is a lot of misinformation about this bill and virtually everything that happens in this state,” Lamont said. The governor said his staff meant to show both confidence in the legislation and to give police confidence that “we’ve got their back.”

No police union leadership was represented at the bill signing. Andrew Matthews, the executive director of the Connecticut State Police Union, called the meeting productive.

O’Leary, the former leader of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said the final version of the legislation largely addressed municipal concerns about increased liability for police misconduct.

Joe DeLong, the CCM’s executive director, said the first version was “incredibly problematic” in that it seemed to end government immunity against claims of willful misconduct by individual officers — something that liability insurance does not cover.
He called the final version “workable.”

“It doesn’t eliminate immunity if an officer was acting objectively in good faith, and quite frankly an officer should be acting objectively in good faith,” DeLong said.

Municipalities remain concerned about a section that establishes factors to consider when evaluating whether a law enforcement officer’s use of deadly physical force was objectively reasonable.

“We have some real concerns of unintended consequences about that, which I hope can be further studied and modified,” DeLong said. “Our biggest concern is there are some gray areas. That section encourages hesitation in a life or death situation. We believe training should kick in, not legislative hesitation.”

The bill creates the office of an inspector general to investigate complaints of police misconduct, requires police and correctional officers to intervene when witnessing brutality, mandates body and dash cameras, bans chokeholds in most circumstances and clarifies that deadly force can be used only when police exhaust all reasonable alternatives.

It also revamps and empowers the Police Officers Training and Standards Council, giving it the authority to decertify a police officer — revoking a necessary credential for employment. POST also would play a large role in shaping training for every police agency in Connecticut, including the State Police, and help set policies on crowd control and the use of force.

A police accountability task force will review the bill, and the POST Council will work on implementation.

One change suggested by CCM didn’t make the cut: barring police supervisors and officers from being in the same bargaining unit, which can complicate the disciplining of officers.

Winfield said the bill was made possible by the demand for action throughout Connecticut, not just in Black neighborhoods.

“Connecticut has heard the cry for change,” Stafstrom said.

Lamont Modifies School Reopening Guidelines

Lamont said he believes most districts still will opt to open and offer students full-time, in-person instruction.

“You know every town, every city’s got very different metrics. So, in the majority of the cases — the vast majority — will be able to have in-classroom, especially in the lower grades. But in some situations you’ve got to give them that flexibility,” said Lamont.

He pointed out that most students and teachers want to return, according to a survey that the State Department of Education recently completed. That survey found 76% of students are expected to return and 81% of teachers plan to teach in-person.

The state reported three days worth of COVID-19 data Monday showing that the number of patients hospitalized with the disease continues to drop. As of Monday, there were 59 people hospitalized in the state, 12 fewer than there were Friday.

The state also reported an additional 207 positive COVID-19 cases since Friday, for a total of 48,983, and five additional deaths. The number of people who have died in Connecticut from the disease now stands at 4,418.

Parents’ plans for sending their children back to school vary vastly by district.

In Wilton, 12% of families said they plan to opt out of in-person instruction. In Fairfield, 18% of families favored remote learning. In Bridgeport, however, 47% of students are expected to remain home.

Lamont’s announcement comes as pushback builds from the teachers’ unions to delay a full reopening and after his hometown of Greenwich released a plan that contradicts his instructions from late June, when he told districts to offer every student the option to return to school full time in the fall.

Greenwich parents were told recently that high school students would not be able to return full-time because there are too many students enrolled in the school to socially distance.

In late June the administration announced that COVID infection rates were low and that districts should plan to reopen full-time in the fall.

“Given the Connecticut health data as of today, districts should plan for fall reopening for all students every day,” said Cardona, adding that plan could change if there is an uptick in the spread of the virus.

Last week, Cardona emailed superintendents that they must have a plan for students to return in-person to school full-time.

“Any plan submitted to the Connecticut State Department of Education on July 24, 2020 that does not include a full reopening option as one of the three models, where all public school students have the opportunity to access school in-person 5 days a week, will not be in compliance with current state law regarding the number of school days, or the expectations of State leadership,” he wrote.

Lamont said in June he made the decision to tell local school districts to plan for reopening because it’s what is best for students and the economy.

“We wanted to have as close to possible a normal school day in a normal school week,” he said. “It also allows employers to be able to plan in terms of what the workday is.”

He also said having a statewide standard was best.

“We wanted to have some consistency across all 169 of our towns. We wanted to do that for the sake of making sure the quality and the experience was consistent for everybody,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lamont, Legislators Agree on July Agenda; It Doesn’t Include Housing Segregation

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

A broadening coalition of affordable-housing advocates gathered outside the State Capitol today to insist that the time has come to tackle housing segregation in Connecticut. But that time will not be this month.

After meeting with legislative leaders, Gov. Ned Lamont said he intends call the legislature into special session to focus on police accountability, the wider use of absentee ballots in November as a temporary COVID-19 safety measure, cost controls on insulin and a continuation of telemedicine begun during the pandemic.

The governor’s public comments confirm what legislative leaders have been saying privately for weeks: the July special session would have a substantive, though narrow agenda. The issue of housing segregation was not raised by legislative leaders, though a second special session in September is under discussion, Lamont said.

Lamont said he intends to issue his formal call for a special session on Friday, the same day the legislature is expected to hold a virtual public hearing on police accountability — the most immediate issue raised by the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Trump Tell-All Available at Barnes & Noble

WestportNow.com Image
On the first day of availability for public sale, the latest Trump tell-all book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” authored by Donald Trump’s niece Mary L. Trump, is on display at Barnes & Noble, 1076 Post Road East. According to a B&N staff member, “We sold several copies in the first hour and have plenty of inventory since we expect high demand.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

For Ted and Carol Diamond, Still a Wonderful Life

By James Lomuscio

Westporters Ted and Carol Diamond celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary recently at home with Champagne, caviar and a multitude of phone calls and emails from family and friends.

WestportNow.com Image
Ted and Carol Diamond on their 74th anniversary last week. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

And on Friday, July 3, the Diamonds will share another milestone. Ted, who served two terms as second selectman from 1973 to 1981, turns 103.

For a man who has lived through two world wars, not to mention two pandemics, Ted, interestingly, does not seem old. Just talk to him. His voice is authoritative yet welcoming, and he still seems robust despite breaking his hip four weeks ago and having a new one put in.

“All the doctors always told me never to fall, but I went down like I was shot,” Ted said. “I was just going out for a walk in the driveway, and I tripped over my walker.”

Lamont: Surging COVID-19 Cases in Other States Could Impact CT Plans

By Keith M, Phaneuf and Gregory B. Hladky

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Ned Lamont warned today he is reconsidering reopening bars in mid-July as new data shows the coronavirus spreading quickly in other parts of the nation, including in states that border the Northeast.

And while surging caseloads in the nation’s major southern and western states dominate the headlines, Lamont also acknowledged the spread is creeping closer to Connecticut, with rising infections in Ohio and other Rust Belt states.

“I would probably say I’m rethinking that [after] looking at what’s going on in other states,” Lamont said of the planned reopening of bars in Phase 3 of his economic road map for Connecticut, adding he likely would have more to say after July 4. “You hope for the best and you plan for the worst.”

Besides reopening bars and amusement parks in mid-July, the administration’s plan currently calls for limits on indoor gatherings to grow in about two weeks from 25 people to 50. The limit on outdoor gatherings would jump from 100 to 250.

Bolton Book a Hit in Westport

WestportNow.com Image
By mid-afternoon at the Barnes & Noble store, 1076 Post Road East, only a few copies remained of the Trump tell all book, “The Room Where It Happened,” by former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Just released nationwide to the public today, the book had an initial supply of 60 copies at B&N, which sold quickly, a clerk said. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Unaffiliated Voters Can Affiliate With Party This Month

The Registrars of Voters have announced that the Secretary of the State will mail absentee ballot applications to registered Democratic and Republican voters of record during the last two weeks of this month.

Historically, Westport has unaffiliated voters who choose to affiliate with a major party close to a national primary election, an announcement said.

“If you are one of those unaffiliated voters and you intend to affiliate for purposes of the primary, please consider doing so now,” it said.

It said advantages include you will be sent the absentee ballot application in late June with other affiliated voters.

Lamont Intends to Call for Special Legislative Session

Gov. Ned Lamont told legislative leaders today he intends to call them into a special session “very soon” to act on police accountability legislation in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

But “very soon” may take a while.

In a letter to the leadership, the governor said he and lawmakers first must agree on legislation addressing police accountability and a second issue: Allowing voters to use absentee ballots in November if they are uncomfortable going to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Once we have agreed upon a package that has sufficient support in both chambers, I will issue a call for a special session that is tailored to specifically address that legislation,” Lamont wrote. “I will not issue a call for a special session until or unless that happens, however.”

Rules for Reopening Restaurants, Movie Theaters, Gyms and Other Businesses

Gov. Ned Lamont today released new reopening guidelines for businesses, including indoor restaurants, hotels and gyms on Wednesday, June 17.

The much-anticipated guidelines emphasize social distancing, limited capacity, improved ventilation, strict sanitation, and the wearing of face masks at all times.

People over the age of 65 or who have other health conditions should remain at home.

All facilities must prepare a detailed plan and training program for employees for reopening and appoint specific staff who are accountable for enforcing rules.