On May 9th, 2017, Jayson Negron – an unarmed 15 year-old – was shot by Bridgeport police and left handcuffed on the ground face-down to die. His body was left in the street for 6 hours. In response to this tragic and unnecessary killing, we started to try and peel back the murky layers of our police department.
Through our research, we learned that strong civilian oversight of our police force benefits the entire community and makes us all safer. Robust civilian oversight makes police accountable to the people they serve, which helps build strong and transparent community-oriented policing. And we learned that civilian oversight functions best when the group is seen as independent of the police department and trusted by the public. In Bridgeport, our only civilian oversight body is our Police Commission, which we discovered holds its monthly meetings in the Chief’s office. We also found that 4 of the 7 people on it are serving expired terms – some for over 10 years! Civilian oversight of our police in Bridgeport is currently inadequate. The potential, however, for our Police Commission to be a successful and sustainable, 21st Century civic structure is there.
State law grants Police Commissions more powers than are in our City Charter, which means that the Commission has the potential to be a stronger civilian oversight body, if the people appointed to the Commission and the Mayor want it that way. It could, for example, subpoena people in its own investigation into Jayson’s killing. We attended the May Police Commission meeting after Jayson’s killing to learn more, but the Commission did not discuss his killing publicly. We do not know of any independent investigation into Jayson’s killing on the part of the Police Commission at this time.
In addition, when we met with City Council members at our June Meeting, we learned that our Police Department is not accredited! Pushing for accreditation is important because it would improve the training and standard for officers, but it could also save us money – giving us access to more grants and better insurance policies.
Core members Isa Mujahid and Callie Heilmann continue to research police accountability in Bridgeport, in the hopes that our community can train and develop a police force that is effective, inclusive, equitable, and transparent.
RESEARCH AND POLICY
Police Accountability Research
POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS for City Council, Police Department, and Mayor’s Office:
- We need to have an active participant at the Police Commission. Having a BPT GEN NOW member attend these meetings, or better, be appointed to the commission would go a long way to building an empowered oversight body that is accountable to the public.
- We must demand our Police Department receive accreditation. BPD is taking up more and more of taxpayers dollars, growing at a rate far higher than the budget itself, without citizens receiving adequate public safety in return.
- Align with and push for the concrete demands made by CTCORE-Organize Now! and CONECT, in the wake of Jayson’s killing, including:
a. The public release of the video from Walgreens
b. Regular updates from the State Police’s investigation
c. Continuous de-escalation and anti-bias training for all officers
d. Body cameras and dashboard cameras for all officers
e. The suspension of Officer James Boulay without pay
City Council Comments (from 6/21/17)
City Council Members openly and freely discussed the need for improved de-escalation training, higher professional standards, and accreditation of our police force.