Children’s safety, and support, should be the main concern for our communities.  Instead, police rely on lying and fear tactics meant to keep society in lines.

In March 2023, ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice leader Manuel Sandoval testified in support of S.B. 1071, a bill to ban police from using deceptive interrogation tactics against children, during its public hearing in the Judiciary Committee. The following is his testimony:

Hello Senator Winfield, Representative Stafstrom, Ranking Members Senator Kissel and Representative Fishbein, and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee:

My name is Manuel Sandoval and I am a New Britain resident, ACLU Smart Justice Leader and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I’m here in support of S.B. 1071: An Act Concerning Deceptive or Coercive Interrogation Tactics.

Working with ages 11 to 24 across the streets of Hartford, I’ve learned all too well that children are a vulnerable population.  This isn’t new information to anyone.  Youth have always been susceptible to all kinds of traumatic experiences due to their level of innocence, comprehension, and trust towards those who can take advantage to them.  It is one of the major reasons we have a social services department, like the department of Children and Families, dedicated to focus on the care and safety of youth.  Other organizations which are supposed to care for the safety of children are our police departments.  However, this is not the tactic used when it comes to how they deal with youthful offenders.  During this time, they have lied, manipulated, and deceived if it meant they’d get an arrest, and close out their case.

Stopping deceptive, manipulative, and coercive tactic by police in general should be everyone’s concern.  For far too long, police have been seen as America’s saviors, assumed to be beyond reproach, incapable of committing any wrong.  This has never been further from the truth, as seen on the nightly news over the last few years.  We’ve all witnessed their actions as well as lies meant obscure their intent.  However, when oppression and control is the main objection those in power will do everything to achieve their goals by any means necessary. In this case that includes lying to children in order to close cases instead of creating a learning opportunity that would in turn produce a more productive community member in the end.  SB 1071 will eliminate deceptive interrogation tactics by police, it would create a judicial check on confessions and eliminate the chances of incarcerating innocent people in the name of justice and control.  We must strive to ensure confessions of youth are obtained by the police through accurate information and not through deceptive, coercive, and manipulated tactics.

No one likes to be lied to, but it’s even worse when you lie to a child.  Most children only want to be loved and cared for. They are even willing to forgive you when you have wronged them.  Most children are generally honest, many have no filters about their feeling, and it is our responsibility to nurture and help them grow.  It is for this reason I cannot understand why police choose to lie to a child. It is bad enough when they lie to adults, but to lie to a child is out right wrong.

As a youth development advisor, I’ve witnessed police officers lie and intimidate children during regular everyday school interactions, as well as when the youth was actually in trouble.  I have seen them lie to youth, say they would get them out of trouble, something they would not be able to actually deliver.  Nonetheless, the youth made the statement.  I can only assume the levels they would go to had I not been there.  I had to inform them that they shouldn’t be engaging with the youth without their parent or guardian. But many of them fail to either comprehend or choose to ignore.

Society’s zero tolerance policies for childlike behavior have made it possible for police to lie to children.  These tactics have given way to the school to prison pipeline, intense traumatic experiences, and a rise in young people involved in the legal system.  Only in America are those most vulnerable to lies, exploited by those charged with their care.  Only in America are children locked up like cattle and left there to rot.

Children’s safety, and support, should be the main concern for our communities.  Instead, police rely on lying and fear tactics meant to keep society in lines. This is unacceptable and instead request police become the example for a better community through engagement that fosters respect, honor, and trust. This will never be possible through their current oppressive and fear tactics.

I strongly support S.B. 1071, and hope this Committee and all of Connecticut General Assembly will vote in favor of this bill.

Thank you for hearing my testimony.