New website focuses on police contracts

Project flashlight

With the January 18 launch of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut’s Project Flashlight, for the first time, the public will be able to find key information about police contracts and police boards statewide in one place. in line.

The Police Transparency Project has taken years to develop and will eventually include information on incidents of police use of force and lawsuits and settlements involving the police, the organization said.

“Injustice thrives in the dark,” said ACLU TC Legal Director Dan Barrett in a press release announcing the launch. “At a minimum, people should know what their local governments are doing, especially when it comes to policing something as expensive and harmful as police departments. Too often, state and local governments withhold even basic information about what the police do, things as simple as the contracts these governments have chosen to enter into with the police.

The website, Project flashlight, currently allows the public to search for police contracts in any city and get an idea of ​​which cities have police boards that govern police actions, said Claudine Fox, director of policy and advocacy of CT ACLU.

“We’re able to shine a light on a lot of powerful cities that are negotiating with police departments,” Fox said.

A union representing at least 2,000 municipal police officers disagrees with the premise and believes the website misrepresents the content of these employment contracts.

“They seem to be saying there is secret language in police union contracts that protects bad officers. It is not,” said Brian Anderson, Legislative Director of AFSCME Council 4. “They are almost at war with themselves in this report.”

He said the issue of police accountability has been widely debated over the past seven years.

“It has become easier to fire a police officer. Tools such as body cameras have been approved and are almost universal. POST was given even more power to ban agents from employment. Legislation preventing police contracts from infringing on freedom of information was passed,” Anderson said.

He said he doesn’t understand what more the ACLU could want because at this point they are calling for an end to the policies they have supported in the past.

He added: “There is no legitimate contract of employment that does not include due process in terms of discipline. It is virtually impossible for a union to exist without such contractually guaranteed protection. If discipline is irrelevant, then it is very easy for an employer to destroy a union by punishing or firing union leaders.

The ACLU CT has been pushing for police reforms after several high-profile use-of-force deaths that left families with little information until inquest results were released months or years later. later.

Project Flashlight’s goal is to provide residents with information about cities’ spending on policing in order to ask state and local authorities to redirect some of the money back to the community in the form of health care, housing and education, all of which help reduce crime, Fox said.

“For decades, communities in Connecticut have spent more than they could afford, in human and financial costs, on policing, and it’s time to put those resources where they belong in education, health care , infrastructure, jobs and housing,” Fox said. “The transparency brought by Project Flashlight alone will not be enough to fix our state’s system in which police injure and kill people, especially black and Latinx people, with impunity and with ever-increasing budgets. But information is power, and we hope people can use Project Flashlight to counter misinformation and create real community safety by reducing the size, role and responsibilities of police departments.

The information took years to gather through Freedom of Information requests to every city with a police department, Fox said. In some cases, city officials were unable to respond until they finalized their contract with the police, she said.

“The US Civil Liberties Union’s CT Chapter alleged that there was a conspiracy in union contracts to protect bad cops. The disciplinary language in AFSCME Council 4 municipal police contracts mirrors the language that our union has for our municipal public works workers, city hall workers, maintenance workers and others,” Anderson said.

An interactive map shows which cities use municipal services or state police. People can then scroll down a list to view their city’s police contract. There is also a CT ACLU Best Practices box indicating whether or not a city engages in best practices regarding resident complaints, disciplinary action, and pensions.

A separate map shows which cities have police commissions or councils. Users can scroll to their city and find the names of police board members, their tenure, and whether they are elected or appointed.

The ACLU CT hopes to complete the website by the end of 2022. At that point, the organization should be able to access use-of-force data that the legislature has mandated to report this year, a said Fox.

There will also be a section on lawsuits against the police and any settlements or outcomes that have taken place, she said.

“The curtain around policing only benefits the status quo, in which we the people pour money into policing at the expense of other valuable programs and disproportionately harming black and Latinx people,” said Barrett.. “Collective agreements often protect the police from liability, and people have the power to change them. Police boards could theoretically hold police departments accountable, and people have the power to hold them in that direction. We hope Project Flashlight will allow people to make these changes and more.

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