Right now, Connecticut is in the process of choosing its first Inspector General -- a position created, through the police accountability law passed this year, as an independent prosecutor in charge of holding police accountable, especially when they hurt or kill people. This week, the Criminal Justice Commission announced that on Thursday, September 24, it would interview two people who have applied for the job: C. Robert Satti, Jr., and Brian W. Preleski. The CJC's search process to date has only considered applicants who are currently employed by the Division of Criminal Justice -- the entity that includes current prosecutors in Connecticut.
Before the Criminal Justice Commission nominates the first Inspector General, it is critical that people know whether the applicants for that role are committed to the value that Black lives matter, and to holding police accountable for hurting and killing people. It is also critical that the process the CJC uses is designed to ensure a nominee who is committed to those values and is therefore the best person for the role.
After the CJC announced the finalists, the ACLU of Connecticut sent them a survey, asking for their positions on key issues facing whoever takes on this role. Below, you'll find copies of their responses, as well as a copy of the survey the ACLU of Connecticut sent.
The ACLU of Connecticut will also testify before the CJC today to speak to the need for both the process of appointing the nominee and the ultimate nominee to uphold the value of Black lives. Here is a copy of the written testimony that the ACLU of Connecticut's policy counsel, Kelly McConney Moore, provided to the CJC:
Chairperson McDonald and distinguished members of the Criminal Justice Commission:
My name is Kelly McConney Moore, and I am policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT). I am here to testify regarding the selection of the inaugural Inspector General based upon the recommendation of this Commission.
The new Inspector General position was established in an effort to create new systems and policies that value Black lives. This position was established because State’s Attorneys have not held police accountable for killing or hurting people, and recognizing this, the public including lawmakers, communities, and impacted families, wished to create a position with the power and inclination to do what State’s Attorneys have failed to do.
It is absolutely critical that this Commission get this nomination right the first time, since what you do today sets a precedent for all future
Inspector Generals. To get it right, you must nominate the most qualified candidate that values Black life and is committed to defending the public’s interest by criminally prosecuting any municipal or state police employee(s) who unnecessarily harms or kills a member of the public.
You have been given this unique responsibility because the Division of Criminal Justice faces a crisis of legitimacy regarding its willingness to hold police accountable. The only remedy to this crisis is to: (1) consider all applicants, including those from outside the Division of Criminal Justice, to avoid arbitrarily limiting the candidate pool and to ensure the public has the best person in the role based on their qualifications rather than their current employer; (2) make a nomination via an unrestricted and deliberate process; and (3) prioritize an Inspector General committed to the greatest possible justice for people harmed by police misconduct and violence.
If, as members of this commission, you believe you are restricted and cannot meet each of these necessary components, then you have a responsibility to the public to call on the legislature to change the law in a manner that will give you the authority to select the best candidate for the job who is explicitly committed to valuing Black lives. We call on the Criminal Justice Commission to meet the spirit of this moment, and of the movement to value and protect Black life. The purpose of the CJC interview, vetting, and nominating process should be to find the most qualified candidate, period.
Since 2001, the Division of Criminal Justice has investigated 81 uses of deadly force. The investigating State’s Attorney has found that 79 of those were justified. This tracks the nationwide trend where police are essentially immune from liability when they kill people, due to impossible-to-meet legal standards for accountability, structural disincentives for prosecutors to pursue charges, and lack of political will on the part of any agent of the criminal-legal system to impose criminal liability. In Connecticut, Black and Latinx people are disproportionately the targets of police
violence. When the DCJ fails to hold police accountable for killing residents, it fails to value Black and Latinx life.
This history, coupled with statewide protests against systemic disregard for Black life, led the legislature to create the Inspector General position. The position is meant to break down institutional barriers to prosecuting police and to finally give justice to communities and families harmed by abusive policing. It is meant to take the job of police accountability out of the hands of State’s Attorneys, who have failed for the past 19 years to hold police accountable, and instead put that responsibility into the hands of an independent unit that is empowered to actually prosecute police
violence and misconduct.
Therefore, it is absolutely critical that all candidates – not just current prosecutors – be considered for this position. Limiting applicants to people currently employed by the Division of Criminal Justice kneecaps the purpose of the Inspector General position. This position was created in recognition of the inadequacy of the job done to date by the Division of Criminal Justice in holding police accountable for their own violence. Considering only candidates from within that very same DCJ is not a step towards valuing lives taken by police. Rather, that is the status quo, a
continuation of the same system that has consistently and repeatedly failed Black and Latinx residents and families.
Instead of business as usual, the CJC should be considering qualified candidates of all backgrounds. Getting the process, so the CJC nominates a candidate who meets the necessary qualifications of being explicitly committed to holding police accountable, is the most important job before the CJC today. The law’s nomination deadline of October 1st does not prevent the CJC from prioritizing the public’s demand for an Inspector General who is explicitly committed to Black life. There is an urgent need for Connecticut to begin holding police accountable, and we share and understand the desire for an Inspector General to be in position as soon as possible. If this Commission nominates an Inspector General before October 1 through an artificially restricted applicant pool, and the nominee is not explicitly committed to holding police accountable, though, we would posit that the Commission may have met a deadline but failed to fulfill the spirit of the law.
This is an entirely new role, and an entirely new process that combines the CJC and legislature for selecting an Inspector General. What happens right now will be a template for future selections of the Inspector General. This process, though, has been needlessly rushed and unduly limited, making it a poor model. An inadequate nominating and appointing process would place the Inspector General – a position that will likely already face significant hostility from law enforcement, if the person in this role fulfills the spirit of the law by using the position to hold police accountable for violence – into a disadvantageous position of illegitimacy from the get-go. We call on the Criminal Justice Commission to meet the spirit of the law: if you believe there is value in including candidates outside of the Division of Criminal Justice, then do everything in your power to ensure that is made possible. If you value finding a candidate who is aligned with the public’s demand for valuing Black life and holding
police accountable, then consider the review of who did and did not answer our candidate questionnaire and evaluate their responses accordingly.** If you believe the current applicants are not aligned with the public’s expectations, then we call on you to work with the legislature to secure a process that will produce the right candidate. A commitment to these basic principles will improve public confidence that the Commission’s nominee has been well-vetted and is the best possible person for the job.
Whenever this Commission ultimately engages in vetting and reviewing candidates, your review must center on determining which candidate is most committed and qualified to hold police accountable. For too long, DCJ has rubberstamped police conduct, no matter how outrageous. That cannot be the role of the Inspector General, which was created to make a “new way for these cases to be . . .investigated.” Instead, the Inspector General must prioritize justice over relationships with law enforcement agencies. The Inspector General must have a comprehensive understanding of how communities and individuals, especially those who are Black, are impacted by policing. This must include an understanding of harms that policing can inflict in addition to the killings of residents. An Inspector General cannot effectively perform the job unless the person has a commitment to building relationship with survivors of police violence, families of people killed by the police, and communities that are over-policed. They must be someone who will truly act on the desires and recommendations of those directly impacted people, not simply take meetings with them and walk away. The Inspector General must be a champion for the people; an institutionalist will be unable to do the job intended by the legislature. Finally, an Inspector General truly committed to achieving real justice for victims of police violence will be able to identify the ways in which the current law blocks police accountability and will advocate for changes to the law to allow accountability for harmful police violence and misconduct.
The Connecticut residents killed by police this year are counting on the Criminal Justice Commission to get this right. The people shot at by police just last week are counting on the Criminal Justice Commission to get this right. Families that still don’t have justice for their loved ones killed by police are counting on the Criminal Justice Commission to get this right. The costs of getting it wrong are too high. The Division of Criminal Justice is already seen as unwilling to hold police accountable; selecting the wrong Inspector General, either through bad process or
bad priorities, will reinforce that belief and make it hard to deny that DCJ doesn’t adequately value Black lives. Getting it right, on the other hand, will send the message that Connecticut takes police accountability seriously. More importantly, though, it will provide an avenue for one type of redress for survivors and impacted families. People hurt or killed by police deserve a system that cares about their lives. By considering all candidates to ensure the person most committed to accountability values is nominated in an open and deliberative process, the CJC can help the Inspector General begin their tenure with public support and legitimacy.
**This written testimony was submitted at 4:30 pm on Wednesday, September 23, in order to meet the CJC's deadline for public comment signup. One Inspector General Applicant submitted their survey response later that day.