HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's police accountability task force on Tuesday rejected proposals to automatically decertify police officers convicted of felonies and drug possession, as current and former law enforcement officials on the panel opposed the measures.
Police officials said officers would be denied the due process right of presenting their side of the case before the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council, which certifies and decertifies officers.
“POST does a good job right now of dealing with this issue. There's a system in place,” said Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik, a member of both the task force and POST. “I couldn’t support a blanket mandatory decertification without allowing for due process, which everybody else is entitled to.”
Shafiq Abdussabur, a task force member and retired New Haven police sergeant, also opposed the measures, saying minority officers are disproportionately charged with crimes compared with white officers. He also cited due process concerns.
“It is often the Black cops ... inside of many departments — Black, Hispanic, Latino officers — which are the officers that are often hunted down by administrative individuals for power issues or personality conflicts and for other things ... that could potentially get an officer acquiring that felony, some feloniously, and then they find themselves being decertified automatically without a due process,” he said.
Besides the existing POST process for decertification, police officials also said anyone convicted of a felony in Connecticut is barred from possessing guns, which would disqualify them from being a police officer.
The proposal to automatically decertify officers convicted of felonies failed on a 4-4 vote. A second measure to automatically decertify officers convicted of drug crimes was defeated 5-3.
The Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force is charged with making recommendations to the legislature. The panel was created last year as part of a police reform bill approved in response to police shootings of unarmed Black and Hispanic people in the state and across the country.
The panel is expected to present preliminary recommendations to state lawmakers next month, with a final report due at the end of 2021.
In June, the panel voted to further study proposals in a draft report including creating an independent authority to investigate police use-of-force incidents, banning chokeholds and other neck restraints and examining labor contract sections that make it hard to fire unfit officers.
Many of those proposals, however, were included in a new police reform bill signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in July.
Also Tuesday, the task force tabled a proposal to study the feasibility of using social workers and mobile crisis units to respond to calls involving disabled people.
The decision came after police officials on the panel suggested that experts, and not the task force, would provide a better assessment of using social workers and crisis units. Other task force members disagreed.