It’s more than disturbing that the state Capitol Police felt they had to send officers from Hartford to Norwalk in response to reports that a legislator was being harassed by his hometown police in an effort to intimidate him — but that’s exactly what happened recently. Capitol Police were sent to Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff's home in Norwalk after local police officers — upset about the police accountability bill that was later passed and signed into law by Gov. New Lamont — tried to intimidate him.
Duff reported that he was subjected to “rude, hostile, abusive and outright unprofessional behavior” during a meeting at Norwalk police headquarters, and that one officer actually spat at him.
Duff, a Democrat, said some officers uttered expletives, and afterward someone started driving by his house repeatedly and yelling expletives, according to Associated Press reports.
“Should any taxpaying resident, much less an invited guest, even have to ask if he or she is safe at the Norwalk Police Department?” Duff later asked in a letter to the police union.
The answer is an unequivocal “no.”
The police accountability law creates a new inspector general to investigate police use-of-force cases, limits when deadly use of force including chokeholds can be justified and allows civil lawsuits in state courts against officers for violating people's civil rights, in certain situations. It is no secret that many police officers across the state oppose parts of this law, and one criticism is that it was enacted too quickly, in a knee-jerk reaction to national events.
“What keeps me up at night is that if they would do this to someone like me who's white, privileged and the Senate majority leader and has a public platform, what are they doing to others who don't have that platform, can't speak up and don't have the position that I have?” Duff said.
We again affirm that we believe the vast majority of police officers perform their duties in a responsible, creditable way and are a tribute to their profession.
But the bullying behavior attributed to a number of members of the Norwalk Police Department only serves to undermine the opposition they are expressing to the closer regulation of police that’s embodied in the new law.
In a year when the nation, the state and many municipalities are trying to come to terms with structural inequities and excesses in policing, their actions only serve to strengthen the justification for the new law they oppose.