Councils In Hamden, Wethersfield Pass On Independent Investigations Of Police Shootings
As the repercussions from two police shootings in Connecticut continue to reverberate, municipal governments in Hamden and in Wethersfield attempted Monday to address the incidents. But neither ended the night by taking any action.
After more than three hours Monday evening, Hamden’s Legislative Council voted down a proposal that would have funded an independent investigation into a police shooting in New Haven last month.
Community members and activists packed town hall to reject a draft resolution they say does not meet their demands.
This comes three weeks after an officer from Hamden and one from Yale University fired 16 shots at a car with two unarmed people inside, injuring the passenger.
Kerry Ellington is a community organizer with People against Police Brutality. She addressed the meeting.
"The community has made a clear demand for and a call for the city of Hamden’s legislative council to draft, create, and pass a resolution that calls for the Hamden police commission, not the Hamden police chief, not the acting Hamden police chief, but the Hamden police commission, which you make no mention of, to conduct an immediate and independent investigation," she said.
Legislative Council member Brad Macdowall said the resolution in front of them was very different from the initial document — much to the surprise of many council members.
"You have liability lawyers and insurance companies come in and say well, ‘that kind of admits guilt, you’ve got to take that out.’ And what we ended up with was a seventh version of the document sent to us minutes before the council meeting started — less than an hour — that didn’t have anything left in it," he said.
Macdowall said he’s hoping for a resolution that makes it clear that they’re serious about changing the way communities are policed. The legislative commission meets again in two weeks.
Meanwhile in Wethersfield, Mayor Amy Bello told the town council that she hopes the community can take a step back and allow the Hartford state’s attorney to conclude her investigation of a recent fatal police shooting in the town.
While some called for the town to conduct its own separate, independent investigation of the incident that lead to the death of 18-year-old Anthony Jose Vega Cruz, Wethersfield resident Julie Montinieri said it’s wise to wait for the state investigation to be completed.
"I trust that you’re going to do what needs to be done to make our communities safer for young people that live here and drive, with a license, without a license and for our officers that are on the street every day," she said during public comment.
But Camelle Scott, an organizer with CT CORE Organize Now, said that investigations by the state’s attorney do not hold police accountable and too often turn into dead ends.
"In no way is it acceptable for police to investigate police and for state’s attorneys who have close relationships with police departments and police to be the final arbiter for whether or not the police this completely unacceptable behavior is acceptable," she said.
Others at the meeting called for the officer who shot Vega Cruz and the department’s police chief to be fired. Greg Brown was a friend of Vega Cruz, and has organized two rallies in the wake of his death.
"I do respect those who put their lives on the line to protect everyone in any state, any town and it’s just sad that one person can make your whole team look like killers," said Brown.
He said he's been stopped twice by Wethersfield police, once in the town and once outside of Wethersfield by a Wethersfield officer. Brown said he has serious questions about the conduct of the officer who pulled the trigger.
"He had a decision to make and he made that decision when he jumped in front of the vehicle. Not when he pulled the trigger—when he jumped in front of the vehicle he put his life on the line," said Brown, speaking of the scene that was made public with the release of dashcam and surveillance footage of the shooting. "Before you sit here and criminalize a person, you have to hold accountable the officer who made that decision that he didn’t have to make. The vehicle could’ve been stopped. It did not have to be stopped with a bullet to the head."