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Meghan Smith, 860-471-8468, 860-992-7645, msmith@acluct.org

January 26, 2017

Violations of Connecticut law, including failure to make complaint policies public, common among police agencies

January 26, 2017

HARTFORD — Police agencies in Connecticut routinely make it difficult for members of the public to access basic and legally-required information about how to file complaints of police misconduct, according to a new study from the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

Drawn from online research and telephone surveys, “Earning Trust: Addressing Police Misconduct Complaints in Connecticut,” shows that many police agencies fail to clearly post their complaint policies and complaint forms online, refuse to accept anonymous complaints, and include threats of prosecution in their complaint intake protocols. In some cases, these obstacles violate state law and statewide police policy.

“Community members who wish to alert their police departments to misconduct should find open doors, not mazes of red tape and intimidation,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, who supervised the study. “Unfortunately, many people seeking to file police complaints in Connecticut will be unable to find information from their local departments. Others will encounter misinformation or intimidation. These violations of state law and policy are unacceptable and disappointing. Transparent, accessible police complaint procedures build public trust, which improves public safety. Police departments that stonewall concerned community members are missing out on an important chance to better serve themselves and our state.”

In 2014, Connecticut passed a law to address police complaints, prompted in part by a 2012 ACLU-CT survey that uncovered extensive problems with the police complaint process in the state. That law, which passed the Connecticut General Assembly without a single dissenting vote in the Senate, required all police agencies—including municipal departments, state police barracks, and special agencies such as university departments—to make their complaint policies publicly available online and at municipal buildings. The law also compelled all police agencies to adopt or exceed a complaint policy created by the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training Council. That policy mandated agencies to: accept all complaints, including those submitted anonymously, online, by mail, over the phone, or by a third party; adopt or exceed a model complaint form; and post complaint forms online and at municipal buildings.

The ACLU-CT’s latest study of 102 police agency websites, however, found that 40 had failed to clearly post their complaint policies and/or complaint forms online. Together, the noncompliant municipal departments serve nearly 1 million people in the state. In a follow-up ACLU-CT telephone survey of 60 police agencies, 42 percent contradicted state law by suggesting that they did not make complaint policies fully available to the public. Nearly one-third stated or implied that they would not accept anonymous complaints.

“These barriers do nothing to improve safety or build public trust. They merely ensure that police departments will be the last to hear about potential problems within their ranks or in the community,” McGuire said. “We will be working to strengthen and reform Connecticut’s existing complaint law, so police departments can start earning the public’s trust.”

For the full report: http://www.acluct.org/earningtrust

For information on the ACLU-CT’s 2012 survey and the 2014 Connecticut police complaint law: http://www.acluct.org/updates/police-complaint-reform-bill-passed/

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