Opportunity Lost

Our elected representatives were especially busy this week. In addition to campaigning, they were called into another special session of the legislature.

By its very nature, a special session of the legislature is called to address immediate needs and to fix or pass urgent and vital legislation. During the last special session in July, House and Senate Democrats passed the Police Accountability Act.

Unfortunately, most knew the 71-page bill — which contained mostly common sense, beneficial changes — also contained some deeply flawed ones. The Democratic leadership even said that they knew parts of the bill were ill-conceived, even dangerous as written, promising to fix these details later in favor of passing something quickly.

At this point, the Connecticut General Assembly is completely controlled by one political party: Democrats. They have a firm majority of 23 to 13 in the Senate and 92 to 59 in the House. With the Governor, they have the power to run the state as they see fit.

It is baffling that some very intelligent people would pass legislation on a topic as undeniably important as public safety without having vetted the bill properly; knowing that it was flawed.

In Greenwich, the ramifications of the Police Accountability Act have already begun. We understand from members of the Greenwich Police Department that individual personal insurance umbrella policies — the kind that insure you against a lawsuit in the event that someone slips on your front steps — are being revoked specifically because the insured’s profession is police officer.

We have already lost three outstanding officers (one with seven years of experience) who have resigned in the face of an impossible choice: protect the citizens of the town under your care, or protect the future of your family from civil lawsuits.

This is just the beginning. If you follow the real-world effects of the mistakes in this legislation to their logical conclusion, it is frightening.

Our best officers will continue to pick up other jobs, many in private security. Replacing our good officers with equally good officers will be almost impossible.

The result?

Those who can afford it, are already taking steps to protect themselves, creating their own private security forces. They will recruit members of the Greenwich Police Department. The public will be left with a significantly diminished police force. A bill that was meant to heal racial and class divides will only make them worse.

In their rush to circumvent the normal legislative process and literally pass the bill at 4:00 o’clock in the morning, House and Senate Democrats pushed through a very flawed law. At that time, leadership in Hartford from both political parties stated the urgent need for another special session to fix the flaws.

The special session this week would have been the perfect time, yet it is not on the agenda. Already, on Thursday, October 1, the first elements of the Police Accountability Act went into effect.

Our police department is very well run, and many of the positive elements of the Police Accountability Act have long been standard practice here in Greenwich. However, as a result of its flaws, several officers have already resigned from the department, including a well-known and universally liked training officer. We cannot blame them.

It is our loss.

What can police do? They can speak up and hold accountable the legislators who put them in this grim position … and they are.

Police unions are endorsing political candidates, in some cases for the first time in many decades. The Greenwich Police Silver Shield Association endorsed Kimberly Fiorello. In Stamford, the police union endorsed Ryan Fazio who is running against State Senator Alex Kasser, a strong proponent of the Police Accountability Act.

The special session this week was an opportunity to fix a good law that includes a few incredibly flawed and ill-conceived provisions. This is clearly a case of an immediate need to fix vital legislation. It is also clearly an opportunity lost.

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