Justice for All: Engaging with communities and embracing reform
Connecticut has made sweeping police reform changes since George Floyd's murder a year ago. In October, the state enacted its police accountability law that requires every police department in the state to go through bias, diversity and inclusion training.
News 12 Connecticut's Mark Sudol sat down with two local police departments about police reform and the training that is being undertaken.
Danbury Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour, the first Black president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, says his bias training is educating his officers about the people that live in their communities. He says police are your friends, not enemies. They are there to help.
"At the end of the day we're your neighbor, we're your baseball coaches, basketball coaches, soccer coaches,” says Ridenhour. “We're your friends."
Ridenhour says people have learned from George Floyd's heartbreaking death, but every time there is a confrontation with Black individuals it sets us back hundreds of years.
Ridenhour's former department, Stratford, has been performing bias training for five years now, well ahead of the state mandates. Stratford officers say after hearing about more and more minorities being shot and killed, they wanted to do something to change the narrative.
“We looked at each other and were like wow. We’ve really got to do something,” says Lt. Curtis Eller of the Stratford Police Department.
They say their training teaches officers about having conversations, not confrontations. That, they say, often starts by talking to young children. Police say that once they have a child's trust that child will be more apt to tell police if something is wrong in their neighborhood.
Stratford's training has expanded way beyond its own department. Its program now travels to other police departments in the state and country - including virtual training sessions with departments in California.
Stratford police say the more police are held accountable and treat others with respect, the more chance that will rub off on everyone.
Text and reporting by Mark Sudol