On December 14, 2017, New Britain police employees Marcin Ratajczak, Christopher Kiely, Michael Slavin, Kyle Jones, and Chad Nelson shot at a car full of youth, killing 20-year-old Zoe Dowdell and injuring two teens. Dowdell’s father, Shawn Dowdell, had to learn of his son’s death through social media.
On behalf of Shawn Dowdell, the ACLU of Connecticut demanded that New Britain and the Connecticut State Police release the dashboard camera footage and all other documents and information, including 911 dispatch logs and recordings, related to Zoe Dowdell’s death at the hands of New Britain police and the moments leading up to it. The New Britain Police Department denied the ACLU of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information request, and the Connecticut State Police did not respond. Under Connecticut law, the public has a right to this kind of information. On October 3, 2018, the ACLU of Connecticut, on behalf of Shawn Dowdell, appeared before the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission to argue for the right, under Connecticut law, to transparency from the New Britain Police Department and Connecticut State Police. In January, 2019, more than one year after New Britain police shot and killed Zoe Dowdell, the Fairfield State's Attorney released information to the public, and police produced information to our client after the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) rejected a proposed ruling from the FOIC hearing officer.
Policing should not be a sunlight-free or Constitution-free zone, and it should be beholden to the checks and balances that democracy demands. At a minimum, when police shoot and kill someone, the public deserves full transparency.