OPINION: It’s time for police reform

OPINION: It’s time for police reform

Last week, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a police reform bill, called “An Act Concerning Police Accountability.” It was largely supported by Democrats, who saw it as a necessary and overdue package of reforms, and opposed by Republicans, who characterized it as “anti-police” and an overreaction to all the protest demonstrations we’ve seen this year since the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

I think The Connecticut Mirror summed it up succinctly:

“It creates the office of an inspector general to investigate complaints of police misconduct, requires police and correction 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.

“… The bill limits the qualified immunity from litigation currently enjoyed by police …” and gives the Police Officers Training and Standards Council “the authority to decertify a police officer, revoking a necessary credential for employment.”

Digging a bit deeper, you might say that the new law takes a hard look at how police are recruited, trained, deployed, managed and disciplined, and therefore promises (or threatens, depending on your point of view) to change the very culture of policing.

Well, maybe it’s time.

Naturally, the police unions are strongly against the new law.

To be sure, police officers have to face stuff that most of us never see, and don’t want to. They have to deal with some of the worst people out there, behaving their worst. Then, five minutes later, they have to reboot their approach and talk to some sweet old grannie who accidentally ran a red light.

It can’t be easy.

Most of us would like to believe that “bad cops” — like the one who was charged with murdering George Floyd — are rare; that the vast majority of officers are “good cops.”

But where’s the evidence? Of the four officers who were called to the Floyd incident, one killed him, two others assisted, and the fourth looked on. Not one of them lifted a finger to stop the fatal brutality they could all see. That’s four out of four random cops — 100 percent — and not one of them did the right thing. And without cellphones and social media, we would never have known about it. How much more abuse goes on that we never see?

I submit that this incident demonstrates that there’s a severe, and all too often deadly, problem with the culture of policing in this country, and Connecticut was right to do something about it.

It seems to me extraordinarily out of kilter that an armed officer — who is empowered to lock people up and who may, in extreme cases, be authorized to take a life — seems to face less regulation and supervision than a registered nurse, whose job is to save lives. To be an R.N., you have to graduate from an accredited nursing program, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and obtain and maintain a state license. If you work at a hospital, there may be written and practical tests to be passed annually, and on-site visits from the state Department of Public Health. And if you mess up, there’s a state Board of Examiners for Nursing that can suspend or void your license.

Why should an armed police officer have to jump through fewer hoops than a registered nurse?

Just sayin’.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.

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