HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — State lawmakers are hopeful that a new contract with the Connecticut State Police will draw more people to the profession.
But those same legislatures know that a lack of interest in law enforcement is about more than just the money.
“It has been a rough couple of years for our troops working through COVID,” said Andy Matthews, the executive director of the Connecticut State Police Union. “Police accountability really affected morale. A lot of criticism from the public undeservingly.”
Connecticut State Police ranks are down to 800 from a high of 1,200. The four-year, $70 million contract is retroactive to July and includes raises and bonuses. It’s estimated to be the most lucrative in New England.
State Republicans said the new contract is a small step toward regaining numbers, but also want to see new policy decisions.
“We believe the full-on assault by the Democrats on police officers has led to very low morale,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-District 86).
Republicans argue that stripping police of qualified immunity has left officers exposed.
“They don’t want to be the test case supervisors and officers are calling off pursuits of dangerous criminals for not getting involved in pursuit because if something goes wrong in that pursuit and that suspect crashes they will be held liable and potentially lose their house,” said Rep. Greg Howard (R-District 43), who is also a police officer.
But Democrats counter there have been no lawsuits.
“People have some legitimate concerns about police officers who have enormous power over individuals’ civil rights,” said Rep. Jason Rojas (D-District 9), adding that it’s a reason to keep transparency and accountability front and center.
Republicans want reforms like allowing for consent to search a vehicle if a crime is suspected. They also want to bring back minimum staffing levels for state police.
Democrats said it was dropped years ago for a reason.
“I want to know the science behind that,” Rojas said. “One less or one more, I don’t really know that that’s a good public policy to set that in statute.”
Candelora counters that argument.
“You see the fatalities on the roadway everybody is talking about how unsafe our roads are,” Candelora said.