Stefanowski pledges to repeal parts of police accountability law following Bristol ambush

Just days after two ambushed Bristol police officers were laid to rest, the deaths have now entered the race for governor.

John Craven

Oct 24, 2022, 10:10 PM

Updated 639 days ago


Just days after two ambushed Bristol police officers were laid to rest, the murders have now entered the race for governor. On Monday, Republican Bob Stefanowski said Gov. Ned Lamont has created a “dangerous” environment for law enforcement. Democrats accused him of using the victims as “political pawns.”
Stefanowski launched a new TV ad featuring an injured officer’s wife saying Lamont “does not care about police officers or their safety.” Hours earlier, the GOP candidate pledged to repeal key elements of the 2020 police accountability law.
"A lack of respect from government has put the men and women behind me, and their families, in an untenable and dangerous condition, and it needs to stop today,” he said.
The Bristol attack led to an outpouring of support for law enforcement. Several thousand people attended Friday’s memorial service at Rentschler Field.
The massive police accountability law was a response to George Floyd's murder. Stefanowski is promising to roll back key elements, including a ban on “consent searches” of cars without probable cause.
State Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) helped author the law. He said “consent searches” can lead to abuse, especially toward minority drivers.
"If you're a young Black person, you've probably had this happen to you one time or another,” said Winfield. “So we said, 'Look, there are times when you actually need to search the vehicle. If you have probable cause, you can get into the vehicle. If you don't, then no, you can't.’"
But the president of Connecticut’s Fraternal Order of Police said the ban means more illegal guns and drugs on the street.
"When we stop a car now, we can no longer use a consent search to make entry into that vehicle to seize those items,” said FOP president John Krupinsky, a detective with the Danbury Police Department.
Stefanowski also wants to restore full qualified immunity for officers. For the first time, people can sue individual officers – but their municipality must cover legal expenses unless the officer is found guilty of a “willful, wanton, or reckless” act.
No officer has been individually sued under the police accountability law, but Stefanowski suggested some have had to take out individual liability policies – at their own expense. After the press conference, Krupinsky said he isn’t aware of any FOP members paying for their own coverage.
"It's not so much about a financial loss so much,” said Stefanowski. “It's that they have to question their ability; they have to question what they do."
Democrats accused Republicans of using the ambush to score political points.
“I was disgusted to learn that Bob Stefanowski is attempting to politicize the horrendous murder of two heroic law enforcement officers just days after they were laid to rest,” said Norwalk mayor Harry Rilling, the city’s former police chief. “These police officers are heroes and deserve more than being used as political pawns.”
On Thursday, Lamont dismissed the attacks.
"There's a shortage of labor for police officers across the country, not just Connecticut,” he said.
Stefanowski also pledged to revisit Connecticut’s use-of-force standard for police, but offered no specifics on Monday. The GOP candidate was also non-committal about whether he would change the law requiring officers to intervene in cases of excessive force.
Democrats control the General Assembly and are unlikely to revisit key components of the police accountability law, although in 2021, they did clarify excessive force standards at the request of law enforcement.
"I would suggest that [Stefanowski] go and actually learn what the law is before you start talking about making adjustments,” said Winfield. “We've already made adjustments."
Stefanowski has consistently trailed in statewide polls. Lamont leads his Republican rival by 15 points in the latest Quinnipiac Poll released Monday. Overall, voters listed inflation as their top issue. Republicans ranked crime third.

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