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State lawmakers consider prisoner transport changes in wake of Richard Cox incident

Legislative action is being considered, but if a special session is not called, it would have to wait until January.

CONNECTICUT, USA — As the Connecticut State Police begin their investigation into the transport of Richard Cox, his family is gearing up for a legal battle with a high-powered civil rights lawyer. But questions are also swirling about whether this could have been prevented by a seat belt? 

Legislative action is being considered, but unless a special session is called, it’ll have to wait until January. 

RELATED: 'We demand justice' | Residents and community leaders call for justice for New Haven man paralyzed in police custody

Meanwhile, Richard Cox is now paralyzed. 

“I was stunned. It was really disturbing to see,” remarked State Senate President Mary Looney, a Democrat from New Haven. Looney told FOX61 the incident is sparking legislative discussion about possibly standardizing police transport protocols. “It really is crying out for a uniform policy here.”

Right now, policies are set by each department. Windsor Locks doesn’t have transport vans. Instead, they cuff suspects and place them in the back of their SUVs. 

“The prisoner is contained in a very small area. That’s good for all of us. He or she doesn’t bounce around very much. Contained. Unlike a van,” explained Lt. Paul Cherniack

The SUVs are outfitted with hard shell seats, plexiglass dividers and window guards. 

“Keeping them from kicking out the windows which have happened in the past,” said Cherniack. They also have seat belts. 

Like most local departments, the Connecticut State Police also don’t have transport vans. Their cruisers are also only able to transport one suspect at a time. 

“We don’t have cages in our car like some of the local agencies do,” explained Sgt. Christine Jeltema.

So instead, the suspects they arrest are seat-belted by troopers into the front passenger seat of the cruiser. They are unable to interfere with the driver because they are handcuffed behind their back. 

“We practice a lot in the academy on how to put people inside of a vehicle, how to seat belt them in, how to take them out of a vehicle. Just to make sure that no one gets injured while we are dealing with prisoners,” said Sgt. Jeltema.

RELATED: Family of New Haven man paralyzed while in police custody set to speak publicly

Most of the departments that do have prisoner transport vans include the big cities like New Haven, Hartford, New Britain and Waterbury, but while some vans have seat belts, others don’t. 

“One of the issues I think is important to address is the issue of seatbelts in the conveyance vans,” said Sen. Looney.

Senator Looney also proposed a bill this past session that would have required law enforcement to provide medical assistance to anyone complaining of illness or injury at the time of their arrest. It passed the Senate but wasn’t voted on in the house. Looney told FOX61 it will be a priority for him in the next session.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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