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Police reform advocates are pressing Bridgeport on the promises it made

A New York City protester holds up a "Black Lives Matter" sign on Sept. 23, 2020, following a Kentucky grand jury's decision not to indict any police officers for the killing of Breonna Taylor.
Wong Maye-E
Associated Press

Officials in Bridgeport, Connecticut, are struggling to keep promises to reform the police force they made after national protests last year.

Last spring the city formed a task force to address problems raised by protesters calling for racial justice. They proposed the creation of a social services unit that would respond to calls related to mental health or substance abuse. Originally the unit was set to begin in August but it is taking longer than expected.

Gemeem Davis, co-director of Bridgeport Generation Now, a community activist group, said officials have blamed this year’s election for the delay but the time to get to work is now.

“If they are serious about reimagining public safety, about making sure that people in Bridgeport who are going through mental health crises get the services that they need then they will make this a priority as we move out of election season and into governing now,” Davis said.

Scott Burns, a member of the Bridgeport City Council, said the mayor’s administration brought some proposals forward but they fell short of the task force’s recommendations.

“I would be more concerned if they pushed ahead and did sort of what the administration wants without respecting what the task force was interested in,” he said. “So if they are going to delay for a few months in order to get it right, I am OK with that.”

The new social services unit would establish a place where residents could go to seek mental health treatment. The unit would also include a mobile crisis van to respond to calls related to mental health crises.

A spokesperson for Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim did not immediately return a request for comment.

John is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.