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Police Union Wants Changes To Use Of Force Language In Police Accountability Law

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Hartford Police
A local police union president cited the Dec. 26, 2020, police shooting of Shamar Ogman, 30, in Hartford in arguing against police reform in Connecticut. This photo is a screen grab of body camera footage from that night.

Some are looking at the 2021 legislative session in Connecticut as an opportunity to turn back major police reform adopted last year in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer.

Hartford Police Union president Anthony Rinaldi cites a Dec. 26, 2020, fatal police shooting to explain his issues with the new accountability measures.

 
The incident began with a report of an armed man roaming Gilman Street in Hartford. After police arrived, there was a back-and-forth with Shamar Ogman, 30, who the state Division of Criminal Justice now alleges was carrying a rifle and a handgun.

In body camera footage of the incident, an officer can be heard saying, “Joe, what are we doing with this? He’s pointing his gun at us.”

Seconds later, Ogman was fatally shot.

The shooting is being investigated by the State’s Attorney’s Office for the Judicial District of Ansonia/Milford and the Connecticut State Police.

“If somebody’s not following your commands [and] is pointing a firearm in your direction, you should act immediately and not have to worry about ‘well, what are we going to do? What’s going to happen?’” Rinaldi said.

He said officers are hesitant on the job in response to changes to the state’s policy on police use of force. Rinaldi took them to mean that officers would wait for a suspect to carry out a threat before they could actually shoot back.

State Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), who co-wrote the bill, said he doesn’t expect the legislation to be touched this session -- and any action on it would be guided by the results of engagement with the general public by the state’s Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force.

“I don’t have a set of things that I’m ready to jump in and say ‘this is what we’re going to do,’” Winfield said. “I think the public has an understanding of what they have lived and what they experience. We’ll hear from the task force and respond to the task force.”

On the other side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford) thinks the police reform legislation was passed too quickly after Floyd’s death, calling it “emotionally charged.” He wants changes because he believes police officers are adversely impacted by the policy reforms.

“We’re not saying to wholesale eliminate the reforms that were done in July, but I think we need to tweak them and make them more workable.”

Rinaldi acknowledges that a revamp of the reforms -- including the use of force language -- probably won’t happen. Still, he’d like both parties to come together on a compromise that satisfies members of his union.

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