12/09/16

Charges Against Hartford Officer Show Flaws of Police Oversight System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 9, 2016

CONTACT: Meghan Smith, 860.471.8468, 860.992.7645, msmith@acluct.org

HARTFORD — On Thursday, Litchfield state police arrested Sean Spell, a former Hartford police officer, on assault and breach of peace charges stemming from an incident in which he stomped on a handcuffed man’s head during an arrest in June. Spell’s arrest came after widespread media coverage and the release of video footage of incident. It was ordered by the Litchfield State’s Attorney’s office, the out-of-district prosecutor assigned to investigate the use of force. The following is a reaction from David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut:

“Prosecutors took far too long to do too little in this case. By delaying release of video footage and taking months to charge Sean Spell with misdemeanors, prosecutors have sent the wrong message to the public and police alike. Police brutality incidents like this undermine public trust in law enforcement, and lack of police accountability further erodes it.

Police officers are not above the law. Yet this officer retired and began to collect a six-figure pension from the city after stomping on a handcuffed man’s head and after being named in at least fifteen public complaints, including a sustained assault complaint. The Hartford Police Department should be ashamed that it placed an officer with a checkered history in a position of authority, and that only 15 of its 34 officers who were present for this incident agreed to speak with investigators.

Communities are watching, and they deserve police forces that fairly, justly, and wisely protect and respect all people. Police officers deserve to work with and for competent colleagues. Connecticut lawmakers must adopt independent police oversight and accountability systems to ensure that dangerous officers are not allowed to assault with impunity.”

The ACLU of Connecticut’s previous statement regarding the underlying incident in this case is available here.