WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — In Waterbury, the police department has become an agent of change after pivoting when Connecticut’s police accountability law was passed.
Chief Fernando Spagnolo says success is about relationships and transparency in the community.
“We have 300 police officers here in Waterbury so there’s a lot for us to figure out on the training side of it police officers are open to change they don’t mind being held accountable.”
Detective Andrea Saunders says the force is adapting to the new law.
“It’s a good thing we have body cams coming in. I know a lot of police officers that want them so we can tell the whole story,” said Det. Saunders.
Some other changes:
- Intervention if a fellow officer is using force
- Inspector General
- No Searches unless probable cause
- False Claims based on Religion/Race Felony
- Officers No Qualified Immunity
Recently, the “use of force” was defined and the law was updated to allow chokeholds if an officer or someone in the public is in imminent danger.
“I think it’s important to understand the definition of the “use of force” and when it should be applied and how it should be applied,” added Det. Saunders.
Changing the face of policing also continues.
Det. Saunders explained, “I’m still recruiting. I’m still looking into my community and having our minority recruitment, that’s important. We want the public to have people that represent them, as well. Change is good.”
Her co-worker, Sargeant Renee Harvey, adds, “When I started this job it was like ‘why do you want to be in law enforcement? They’re all racist.’ And my thing then – and still very much now – is if you want change you have to be the change. You have to incorporate yourself into whatever you think the problem is and try to make change from the inside out because you can’t do that from the outside in.”
As a bias and cultural awareness trainer, Sgt Harvey sees the change in Waterbury.
“When I grow up I didn’t see police officers that look like me. I didn’t. And if there were any they weren’t in our neighborhoods and I grew up right here in Waterbury. As I said it doesn’t change, it doesn’t wash off. I am still Black and I’m still very much blue.”
“It’s important for growth; It’s important for understanding. And it’s important that we continue to change because time changes, the expectations of us obviously changes. Our community differs or grows,” added Chief Spagnolo.
Sgt. Harvey sums it up like this: “Now the kids are the same age that I was when I didn’t see me, they can see me and they can see her and they can see him. They can see that there are people of color and quite a few of us – there needs to be more – but there are quite a few of us here and we’re making change just by being here. that’s the start.”