NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Chief Otoniel Reyes of New Haven Police Department released a statement Thursday night regarding the recent passing of Connecticut police accountability bill.
The bill which was passed early Wednesday morning has been met with polarizing opinions from legislative, the public, and police officers.
If signed the bill would focus on implicit bias training, require body and dash cams, prohibit the use of military equipment, ban chokeholds, require officer bystander intervention, and mandate mental health assessments.
Chief Reyes disagreed with the police reform bill passing, saying he did not like the content of the bill and said it was done "in haste." The chief added that legislators gave little to no consideration of the negative impact the bill could have on good police officers.
Chief Reyes has made it a point to make the New Haven Police Department transparent with Elm City residents. On May 29, he met with protesters outside the New Haven Police station and answered their questions one-by-one. On June 16, Chief Reyes supported the firing of Officer Jason Santiago whose body camera showed him kick a man on the ground. The chief said actions were inconsistent with department standards and put officers at risk.
The New Haven Police Department has suffered financially when the city council voted to cut $4 million from its budget in early July. Coincidentally, New Haven was dealing with an uptick of violent crime throughout the city. At one point the city saw five shootings in a 24-hour span.
Read Chief Reye's full statement below:
I have been wrestling with a myriad of emotions over the passage of the police reform bill. Mostly, I am frustrated and I am disappointed. Frustrated because we as a nation had a real opportunity following the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of Officer Chauvin; an opportunity to use that tragic and dark moment in our history to galvanize our communities and our police departments. I say that because something ground-breaking happened after the death of George Floyd, something that I had not seen in my lifetime, and certainly not in over two decades of being a police officer. After the death of George Floyd, people across our nation and the world, people of every race, culture, socioeconomic status, and political affiliation, all stood up in solidarity to condemn what occurred in Minnesota and against police brutality. What was even more notable, was that among the voices of condemnation were numerous police officers and police leaders across the U.S. that very publicly and emphatically condemned the actions of Officer Chauvin. Here in New Haven, we took it a step further by standing in front of our police department and sending a resounding message to the world that we did not condone police brutality.
I'm frustrated and disappointed because here in CT we had an opportunity to lead the way, to be a beacon of hope, to make significant and meaning changes to the culture of law enforcement, while strengthening community-police relations. I am frustrated, not because of the content of the bill, but more so at the under-current of divisiveness and the spirit of negativity that lead to its passing. The passing of this bill was done in haste, it was driven and motivated by hate and anger, and it served to drive a wedge between communities and police. I am disappointed at the lack of leadership by some of our elected officials that made decisions largely based on political pressure and misguided emotions, instead of courage and conviction. The elected officials that were a driving force behind this bill, particularly those that represent the New Haven community, crafted this bill without input from me as the Chief of police in New Haven. They were in such a rush to pass legislation, that they gave little to no consideration to the negative impact it could have on good police officers that have placed, and continue to place, their lives on the line in honorable service to their communities every single day.
The New Haven Police Department has always been at the forefront of positive police reform. We will continue to work on building trust with our community, we will continue to hold ourselves accountable and to maintain the highest standards of professionalism. We are also committed to working hand in hand with our community and our community leaders for positive and meaningful change. We must do so together, with a message of hope and a message of unity. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King stated, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only the light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
As of July 30, Governor Lamont has not signed the bill into law.
Read the police accountability bill below: