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Lamont vetoes transfer of military vehicle to West Haven

The ACLU of Connecticut had urged lawmakers to reject the bill during the legislative session, which adjourned on May 4.
Credit: AP
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont delivers the State of the State address during opening session at the State Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont has vetoed legislation that would have allowed a Connecticut police department to bypass the state's 2020 police reform law and obtain a surplus military vehicle from another community.

The Democrat said he opposes making the one-time exception for the city of West Haven. He noted it would be “inconsistent” with the 2-year-old law that prohibits state and local police from acquiring certain pieces of surplus federal military equipment, including the “mine-resistant ambush-protected” vehicle sought by West Haven, known as an MRAP. Lamont said allowing the exception would be at odds with “community-focused policing” practices his administration supports.

“MRAPs were included in the list following several national and local instances of inappropriate use of such vehicles,” Lamont wrote in his veto message, released late Wednesday. He said the creation of Connecticut's list of barred equipment, which includes items such as weaponized drones and grenade launchers, had followed “an extended public debate regarding the militarization of police.”

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Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, said city officials were seeking to obtain the vehicle from the town Farmington for “life-saving measures,” especially during severe storms. He said West Haven has been attempting to acquire such a vehicle since 2011 but they've been either too costly or in poor condition.

“Being a shoreline community, we have experienced numerous devastating storms such as Sandy, Irene, and snowstorm Nemo. These storms caused flooding, downed trees, and debris as well as a historical snow fall total,” Ferraro said in written testimony.

Ferraro said there's “much misunderstanding surrounding the acquisition of such vehicles." He said the vehicle has been stripped of its military armaments, including one layer of armor.

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State Sen. James Maroney, D-Milford, whose district includes West Haven, noted in written testimony that municipalities are allowed to petition the governor or the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to retain surplus military equipment “for relief or rescue efforts in the case of a natural disaster or for other public safety purposes.”

A message was left seeking comment with the West Haven Police Department about Lamont's veto.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut had urged lawmakers to reject the bill during the legislative session, which adjourned on May 4. The group said in written testimony that it opposes legislation that “facilitates the unnecessary militarization of the police" in the state.

“Highly militarized police units and equipment turn communities into war zones,” said Jess Zaccagnino, the group's policy counsel. “Neighborhoods are not battlegrounds, and no arm of the government should be treating Connecticut residents like wartime enemy combatants.”

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