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Lawmakers propose a bill in response to the controversial deaths of two Bridgeport women

This bill also known as HB5349 would ensure police officers must notify the next of kin within 24 hours of identifying their body.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Lawmakers have proposed a bill in response to the controversial deaths of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls of Bridgeport. 

Families of both women have been outraged and said Bridgeport Police never notified them of their loved ones' deaths. 

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This bill is also known as HB5349, would essentially change that and hold officers accountable. 

"Every day my heart breaks, every moment I have to keep myself strong," said Shantell Fields, mother of Lauren Smith-Fields. 

Shantell Fields has been holding back tears since the sudden death of her 24-year old daughter. 

Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment in December after a date with a man she met on Bumble, but her death was not quickly revealed by the Bridgeport Police Department. Rather, her family had to constantly reach out to ask for information and updates. 

Smith-Fields' father told FOX61 he was appalled by the manner his daughter's death was being handled. 

"To not know that the immediate family member is not notified to identify or not notify in general is an atrocity," said Everett Smith, father of Smith-Fields. 

"There needs to be something in place moving forward so they can know that they need to be respectful to the family members ... be respectful to the person that's deceased!" added Smith. 

The legislation would require police who respond to or encounter a deceased person or remains of a person to ensure the next of kin are notified within 24 hours of being identified. 

If the officers fail to do so, the reason would have to be documented or it can be reported to the State's Office of the Inspector General for investigation. 

State Senator Gary Winfield is one of the few lawmakers who have pushed for this bill. 

"My hope is that we get to a point where people don't have to force the issue. We just recognize these issues are important to all of us and the families and that should be enough," said Winfield. 

The sister of Brenda Lee Rawls who police said died from natural causes such as diabetes, has concerns about the bill. 

 "The bill alone is not going to be a magic bullet. They still need to have that oversight of those officers who are out in the streets to make sure they're doing what they're paid to do," said Dorothy Washington, sister of Rawls. 

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Rather than put trust in the state's medical examiner, Rawls' family is looking to conduct an independent autopsy investigation. 

 "I just have a lot of questions because I just don't believe that the cause of death that was put on her death certificate is true," added Washington. 

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There will be a public hearing on this bill before the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee on March 9 at 10 a.m. through Zoom. 

Carmen Chau is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at cchau@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


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