It wasn’t that long ago–the summer of 2017–that so many of us in town gathered at Our Lady of Fatima to share our sorrow and condemnation of the events in Charlottesville. I didn’t imagine then that the town would be coming together in the same place to do the same thing three years later.
It’s impossible not to respond to the violence that occurred in Minnesota with anything but revulsion, disgust, anger, and sadness. George Floyd’s death and the other similar deaths we saw recently were senseless. I am completely unable to understand what moves someone to do to another human being what Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd.
Do protests help? They show that people care. Particularly when they are peaceful, as many of the recent demonstrations in Connecticut have been. But when they are violent, they are harmful. I worry about fighting violence with violence. One of the things that it certainly does not accomplish is to show people how to behave toward each other with respect, empathy, and understanding. And that–setting that example–is really our primary job here as human beings. That, more than anything, is the only way forward.
I so admire the way this town comes together to help when people are in distress–for whatever reason. The volunteerism and caring I’ve seen during this pandemic alone has been so very moving. And when incidents of racism or bigotry have happened here or near to us, town leaders and residents have been vocal in their condemnation. This is a welcoming, warm, friendly, and helpful place. And there is no resemblance between the behavior we saw in Minneapolis and that of our own police force, whose members protect and support us every day.
Our country is faced with a profound cultural problem. We cannot rely on administrative and legal action to solve it. We must rely on ourselves as individuals and as a community to make sure that we show each other, all the time, that certain behaviors are unacceptable. And one of the best ways to do that is to behave always in a caring, understanding way: in private, in public, in person, and online. Now is a perfect time to start: everyone is on edge because of the pandemic, everyone is worried about something, everyone is frustrated and uncertain about the future. Now is the time to show that we are here for each other, and to let all our preconceptions and minor preoccupations just go. People are people, and each other is all we really have.
There is one thing that I do think our state must do. During the 2019 legislative session, we voted on a labor contract with the state police. The contract, which expires on June 30, 2022, exempts state police officers’ personnel records and grievance hearings from public disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information statute. The officer charged with the death in Minneapolis had accumulated at least 17 complaints on his record during his years of service. In Connecticut, a record like this would not be accessible to the public if it belonged to an officer charged with a serious offense, perhaps one that might lead to an even more grave offense later on.
Connecticut is the only state in the union where a labor contract can supersede state law, and the police contract, which a majority of legislators approved, does exactly that. I voted to reject the contract for several reasons, and this was one of them. While it’s extremely unlikely that the contract can be negotiated while it’s in effect, I would suggest that when it expires in 2022, one of two things should happen at the state level: one, that the legislature pass legislation eliminating the supersedence of labor contracts; or two, that the governor ensure that the clause exempting personnel records from disclosure be stricken from the next contract with the state police. It’s a matter of public safety, and one of these steps should be taken.
I wish for everyone to be careful and stay safe today, and every day.
Click here to read the full article by Good Morning Wilton.