WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Community leaders, advocacy groups and religious leaders called for more transparency and better compliance on Tuesday from the Waterbury Police Department regarding the use of force in arrests.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Bishop John Selders, with Moral Monday CT, “don’t start with force first.”

The group said there were 229 use-of-force incidents from 2019-2020, but that there were 207 between July 1, 2022 and March 1.

“I find it difficult to accept that force needs to be used in the way, and in the amount, that it’s currently being used in our community here in Waterbury,” said Robert Goodrich, with Radical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education.

Goodrich said officers need to be taught other ways for when they interact with the community.

“They’re the public safety officers,” he said. “They’re there not just to keep themselves safe, but us safe.”

Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo said those incidents were justified, and that officers didn’t violate policy.

“During that eight-month period, I think it’s important for people to know that Waterbury police responded to 80,200-plus calls for service,” he said. “We made over 2,600 arrests, and we used force in 207 of those incidents. Those numbers, to me, make sense.”

Spagnolo added that requirements to reporting use-of-force incidents change after the police accountability law was signed in 2020.

“We report more on use of force than we ever have before,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing, because we can monitor and track what our officers are doing.”

The department is also undergoing an efficiency study from an outside agency.

The video below aired in our 8 p.m. newscast on May 9, 2023.