ANSONIA, Conn. (WTNH) — On the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, we spoke with Ansonia’s police chief about changes they are making in the department, and how they are working with local NAACP groups to get it done.
Chief Andrew Cota told News 8, in the year since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, he’s made it his mission to send his officers an important message: treat everyone with professionalism.
“The change is making sure that officers are aware if you are using force with a subject and you do have to handcuff him on the ground, get them up quickly off the ground,” he explained. “Get them in a sitting position. Don’t let them be in a position where the stress — they’re laying on their stomach — even though we just used force, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to make sure they’re okay.”
He also tells News 8 he’s emphasized with his officers that they do everything in their power to de-escalate a potentially violent situation.
“We’re being held accountable for our actions,” Chief Cota said. “We have to make sure we’re doing our work properly.”
Chief Cota says he’s also worked extensively with local leaders of the NAACP to engage more with communities of color — participating in roundtables answering questions from the public and speaking with teens in schools as much as they can during the pandemic.
“I want them to ask questions, to let them know why an officer may do what he/she does in situations,” he said.
He believes opening the lines of communication is key to building up trust. That’s why he attended a vigil Tuesday night in George Floyd’s honor at the Derby Green. It was hosted by Greg Johnson, the President of the Connecticut Valley NAACP.
“We continue to communicate and we know in order to have better communities, police have to be an integral part of it,” Johnson said.
Johnson has worked with several Naugatuck Valley police chiefs to try and enact change in policing here at home.
“Definitely at the table talking more about police brutality,” Johnson said. “We don’t want any more knees to the neck. Those type of issues are uncalled for.”
Several area departments are also engaged in cultural and diversity awareness training.
Johnson tells News 8 the NAACP is making some progress with the local police chiefs. For instance, he gives Chief Cota high marks for his participation in several online community forums predominantly with people of color.