On Thursday night, New Britain police shot and killed one person and shot and injured two other people. All three people were in a car.
If you want a hint at what policing in America looks like in 2017, pay attention to what happened next. The New Britain Police Department didn’t release the names of the police officers who fired their guns at three people, the number of police officers who used force, or the number of shots those police officers fired—but it did tell the press that police thought the people in the car had been involved in car jackings earlier in the year. The New Britain Police Department didn’t tell the public whether police had seen inside of the car before deciding to shoot at its three occupants—but it did tell the press that police discovered a gun in the car.
In other words, before New Britain police had even publicly identified the person who they killed, they had started dragging his name through the mud. Like others before them, New Britain police took the time to demonize people who they hurt and killed, but they didn’t take the time to be transparent about what happened. Unfortunately, we have seen this before—particularly when police kill adults and children of color. And until Connecticut starts taking police transparency and accountability seriously, we will see it again.
Our country is supposed to be better than this. In America, the word “suspect” isn’t supposed to mean “death sentence.” Our justice system is supposed to treat people as innocent until proven otherwise, and it is supposed to value people’s lives over property like cars. The government is supposed to be accountable to checks and balances, and it is supposed to be transparent with the public.
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 minimum, when police hurt or kill someone, the public deserves full transparency, yet some towns in Connecticut have fought against even revealing the details of lawsuit settlements in police brutality cases to the public.
When a police officer uses deadly force, the public should at least have transparency about what happened—not just the facts that the police department likes, but all of them. The New Britain Police Department needs to immediately identify the police officers who shot to kill and injure three people. It is in the public’s interest to know what happened; if there is dashboard camera footage or other footage of what happened last night, law enforcement should immediately release that, too. The Middlesex State’s Attorney, who is in charge of the Connecticut State Police’s initial investigation into the shooting, also needs to do his part to be completely transparent with the public and thorough in his approach to securing justice.
New Britain police have only released one-sided information, not the full details of what happened. Transparency will not bring back the life lost last night, but it would be a welcome step toward change.