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Following Bridgeport incident, a new bill would require timely reporting of deaths to family members

Bridgeport Police Department
Bridgeport Police Department

Connecticut lawmakers moved forward a bill to require police to report deaths and other incidents in a timely manner. This comes after two deaths in Bridgeport last year drew national attention.

Families of two Black women, Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls, who died on the same day — in unrelated incidents — said police never notified them of the deaths.

State Representative Steve Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport, co-chairs the state Judiciary Committee, which approved the bill.

“This bill allows some recourse for what we hope is the very few instances where the police department fails to do that, and fails to document the reasons why they have not,” Stafstrom said.

The bill would require officers to tell relatives of deaths no later than 24 hours after the deceased has been identified. Otherwise they have to explain why they couldn’t.

“This is not about the type of efforts that we’ve had around police accountability before, but this is about making sure that people are made aware that a loved one has passed on when that knowledge exists,” said state Sen. Gary Winfield of New Haven.

Two police detectives who investigated the Bridgeport cases have been suspended pending internal affairs investigations. Mayor Joe Ganim said the city will also change its procedures.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.