Prompted by the murder in Minneapolis while overlooking the several recent questionable fatal shootings by police in his own state, Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered Connecticut’s state police not to get nuclear bombs, hypersonic missiles, flamethrowers, and other such weapons from the Defense Department, as if such weapons have ever figured in police mistakes or misconduct in Connecticut. The governor also has ordered the state police to use deadly force only as a last resort, as if that isn’t already policy.
More relevant among the governor’s new orders is that all state police troopers and vehicles should be equipped with video cameras. Good luck to the governor in finding the money for that after he pays the big state employee raises due next month.
Notably omitted from the governor’s orders is anything serious about the main trouble with police work — the lack of accountability. Nowhere has the governor yet mentioned the state police union contract his administration negotiated that conceals complaints of brutality. Nor has the governor yet mentioned the state law that allows the state police contract and other state employee union contracts to supersede — nullify — freedom-of-information law.
Accountability may be politically difficult, but as policy it is simple: Make everything public and do everything in public. Don’t bother with “civilian review boards,” which just complicate responsibility. Put police departments, including the state police, under police commissions, whose members are either elected or appointed by elected authority, and empower them to run their department. Hold all complaint or disciplinary proceedings in public and forbid secrecy for any conduct records. Prohibit officer appeals to the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration, which is just a mechanism for surrendering control to the unions.
One more thing: Get serious about chronic offenders, who cause much trouble and frustration for police. Connecticut is full of criminals with 10, 20, or more convictions who have amply demonstrated incorrigibility but remain free as political correctness clamors to close the prisons. With police properly coming under more scrutiny, the incorrigables will sense victory and have even less fear of the law when they should have far more.
While the governor has not yet reached much relevance with police accountability, at least he has not fallen in with the “defunding” clamor, which ironically is loudest where policing is most needed, in cities like Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. It is as if the people protesting the police don’t hear the daily shootings committed by their fellow residents. Indeed, among the demands of the protesters in Bridgeport is the removal of the police “shot spotter” system, which tracks gunfire around the city.
Yes, as with people in all other occupations, police make mistakes and some are cruel, corrupt, or otherwise unfit. But they are not the big problem. The big problem is the worsening social disintegration where they are sworn to keep order.
The protesters themselves confirm this when they call for diverting police appropriations to youth services and treatment of mental illness. The police aren’t why so many kids are messed up and get in trouble with the law, and once they are messed up, it’s usually too late to do much about it.