A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit on Wednesday that challenges part of Connecticut’s new police accountability law. The State Police Union says it plans to appeal, as part of a push to restore a union contract that kept complaints against police sealed.
Connecticut lawmakers moved to give the public access to complaints against officers, which had been exempt from public disclosure law. The transparency measure came in a package of police accountability bills the police killing of George Floyd prompted global racial justice protests.
Andrew Matthews leads the Connecticut State Police Union. He says the rush to pass reforms made the state void a police union contract that it approved last year, and that contract was meant to protect anonymous or unfounded complaints against officers from the public eye.
“We feel betrayed by the legislature," Matthews says of troopers, "but more importantly, it’s just factual. It’s the law. It’s the constitution. You can’t negotiate a contract, and then strip us of it, without even speaking to us.”
The federal judge dismissed the lawsuit because he found that Connecticut voided the contract under its right to govern in the public interest, in response to outrage over Floyd’s killing. Matthews says the police reform bills passed by state lawmakers were a political response to the murder of George Floyd.
“We think it was an emotional decision. Continuously, in their argument, the state mentioned Mr. Floyd," Matthews says, "Mr. Floyd was not murdered here in Connecticut. Our troopers do not conduct themselves in that way. This isn’t about trying to hide misconduct. If a trooper commits misconduct the public has a right to know and they should know.”
He says he hopes the Federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agrees to hear arguments that Connecticut’s law voided part of the contract, which the legislature approved in 2019.
Matthews says the union supports some of the transparency disclosures.