A community committee formed by City Council President Aidee Nieves and Councilman Scott Burns has offered recommendations in a report that includes community policing foot patrols, greater interaction with residents, regular public meetings, replacing police with social workers, addiction counselors and homeless advocates suited to their skills and training.
See report below:
The Bridgeport Task Force on Public Safety: Summary (DRAFT)
A year ago on May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old Black man was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Video of Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds after he was handcuffed and lying face down on the ground has been watched over 1.4 billion times. Worldwide protests against police brutality, lack of police accountability, systemic racism and in support of the movement for Black lives has ensued since Mr. Floyd took his last breath.
Bridgeport residents joined those protests and that movement. Throughout the summer of 2020
young people, activists, artists, civic organizations, community groups, our State and Federal
delegations and members of the City Council took to the streets with demands that Bridgeport
address the crisis in policing in our own city. Common themes from those demands included:
● Divestment/reallocation of funds from the Police Department
● Investment in social services, community programs and public schools
● Removing SRO’s from public schools
● Hold police officers accountable for violence/bad behavior
● Demilitarize the police department
● Require police officers, police commissioners be committed to anti-racism
● Increased transparency from the police department and city government
The Bridgeport City Council responded and passed resolutions to begin the process of addressing the grievances of the community.
Resolution 130-19: Introduced by Council President Aidee Nieves and co-sponsored by
Councilpersons, Denese Taylor-Moye, Evette Brantley, Matt McCarthy, Maria Valle, Ernest
Newton, Jorge Cruz, Maria Pereira, and Avelino Silva “Committing to reallocating certain funds
from the Police Department to address the safety, security, educational and social services needs of Bridgeport residents” – July 6, 2020
Resolution 129-19: Resolution presented by Council Member(s) Cruz, Taylor-Moye, Brantley,
Herron, McBride-Lee, Silva, Castillo, Pereira, Martinez & Newton re: Proposed resolution
declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis in Bridgeport, referred to Economic and Community
Development and Environment Committee. – July 6, 2020
Resolution 155-19: Resolution presented by Council Member(s) Cruz, Brantley, Silva, Pereira
& Newton re: Proposed resolution Declaring Gun Violence as a Public Health Crisis, referred to Economic and Community Development and Environment Committee. – September 8, 2020
The Bridgeport Task Force on Public Safety co-chaired by Council President, Aidee Nieves and Councilman Scott Burns was formed with community representation as a working group to research best practices and evidence based solutions to codify the resolutions.
The Task Force used the PDIA model to open up discussion and drill down to the root causes of the Bridgeport community’s specific grievances/relationship with the BPD.
Themes have recurred strongly throughout these engagements:
1. The time is now to re-imagine what public safety looks like in Bridgeport.
2. Because systemic racism is the root cause of inequity and anti-black sentiment in the country/city–and policing–we must reckon with it.
3. To begin repairing the harm of police brutality/violence, misconduct and corruption in the police department the city must make substantial investments in the community.
4. Community-police relations have reached a low point in Bridgeport. Improving these relations demands work and effort from all parties: the police, police leadership, City Council, community leaders, and residents.
5. A lack of transparency undermines the opportunities to repair those relationships between community and police. Budgetary transparency comprises one element and is paralleled by a lack of transparency into police behavior, discipline, and practices.
6. Trust is sorely lacking in this city: the people lack confidence in the professionalism of their police force and City Council.
The Task Force puts forth the following recommendations:
1. Bridgeport needs a social services-based unit to address non-violent, non-criminal issues that require the services of professionals outside the police force. Social workers, addiction counselors, homeless advocates and others need to be given the opportunity to replace police where their skills and training are more suitable to address the needs of the community. Many municipalities are embarking on similar efforts, structures like CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon, and STAR in Denver, Colorado, provide Bridgeport with examples to follow.
2. The BPD re-commit to community policing–in line with what the community wants and expects. Specifically:
A. Host regular meetings between police and constituents, organized on a district (or combined district) basis.
B. Foot patrols need to be reinstituted. The Task Force recommends patrol officers to spend 90 minutes per shift outside their vehicles, meeting with the community and giving a name, a face, and a voice to those they serve.
C. Post-Covid, BPD needs to revive community-based activities: the Citizens’ Academy; ride-alongs, and other face-to-face interactions.
D. Create and/or strengthen police interactions with various constituent and service organizations, including RYASAP/Street Safe; Project Longevity; Center for Family Justice; CT Juvenile Justice Alliance, and others. In turn, community-based organizations must provide for their own accountability in this effort.
3. To address the lack of police accountability, renegotiate the police union contract with these common sense reforms in mind: These recommendations aim to reduce the capacity of the Bridgeport police to cause harm and should be adopted in order to hold the department accountable.
● The Chief of Police must fire officers who are found guilty of using excessive force or in violation of Class 1 complaints.
● When being investigated for excessive force, sexual misconduct, or off-duty offenses, officers must be placed on unpaid leave and release their firearm. If they are cleared of wrongdoing, they will receive back pay for lost wages.
● The Chief of Police is required to recommend officers for decertification who fit the state’s criteria.
● City-funded overtime accrual shall not exceed 10% of an officer’s base salary.
● When being considered for promotion, all past records of discipline should be considered.
● In progressive discipline, all previous disciplinary action should be taken into account, including verbal warnings.
4. Budget Transparency:
1. The City needs to publish a budget that reflects actual staffing deployment, not according to outdated codes or categories, and that is presented in lay terms.
2. Provide clearer, accessible data regarding salaries, benefits, and overtime (including breakdown over inside and outside overtime).
3. The Budget & Appropriation Committee needs to continue to report current staffing levels quarterly of Police and Fire Departments.
4. The city needs to track external costs linked to the department: civil lawsuit payouts; time/manpower lost to injury, illness, military service, discipline, etc.
5. The city needs to track grant-based support, for both programs and supporting employment.
6. The city needs to identify and track unfunded mandates (e.g. dash cams; psychological testing) that come out of the state police accountability laws.
5. Budget and Contract Reforms:
1. The City needs to conduct a staffing study, one of the clear recommendations from the June 2020 Chief Ramsey report. Civilianization of certain jobs; creation of a ‘flag corps’ for traffic construction work; and accurate assessment of necessary sworn personnel, including ranking officers needs to be included.
2. Eliminate OT earnings from being included as contributions to MERF (Municipal Employment Retirement Fund) calculations. The city needs to assess different investment vehicles (such as 457 or 403-b type plans) to reduce current and long-term pension burdens.
3. City needs to assess at least every three years revenue sources linked to the BPD, including outside overtime fees and surcharges; meter collection; parking fines, etc. While the fiscal year 2021-22 budget process will limit the official activities of the Task Force, it is expected that individual members will continue to engage in this work and be ready to resume assessing specific measures moving ahead.