Coalition Testimony Outlines Measures Needed to Improve Accountability and Public Oversight
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The New England First Amendment Coalition sent a letter to Connecticut lawmakers today recommending specific transparency requirements that should be included in recently proposed police accountability legislation.
“With those in Connecticut now discussing how law enforcement can best be structured and overseen by the public, this is an opportune time to make meaningful changes to our police departments,” wrote Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, in a July 17 letter to members of the state’s Judiciary Committee.
By making these changes, Silverman wrote, “citizens can more easily build trust with and oversee their law enforcement officers. Police departments throughout the state will also be equipped to better protect the rights of the public and more effectively serve their communities.”
In response to Draft Bill No. 3471, NEFAC outlined specific changes that would increase transparency within state, county and local police departments. They include:
• Opening the Decertification Process to the Public
• Requiring Multiple Public Hearings for the Transparency Task Force
• Mandating the Use of Police Body Cameras
• Creating a Publicly-Accessible Officer Misconduct Database
• Releasing the Names of All Suspended Officers
The coalition also called on legislators to codify into state law recommendations made by the ACLU Connecticut in its recent report “Bargained Away.” The report looks at the role police union contracts have in preventing law enforcement transparency and accountability.
The ACLU recommended that municipalities require that internal affairs and investigative files remain a permanent part of an officer’s file and remove any provisions from police union contracts that, among other things, conflict with the state’s Freedom of Information Act or allow disciplinary hearings to be conducted in secret.
“The issue of police brutality has recently risen in our national conscience and there now seems to be the political appetite to make necessary reforms to law enforcement policy,” Silverman wrote.
This is an opportunity “to help make both local and state police departments as well as county sheriffs offices more accountable for their actions and to prevent instances of misconduct that have been plaguing communities throughout the nation,” he added.
NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government, including law enforcement agencies.
The coalition recently released a guide on police brutality protests, submitted testimony on police accountability to Vermont lawmakers, discussed the role of transparency in policing the police, presented a webinar on law enforcement records in New Hampshire, and explored law enforcement accountability with several local journalists covering crime in their communities.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.