Connecticut’s largest public employee union is working to block a bill designed to fix a loophole which has potentially kept an unknown number of otherwise-disqualified cops on the job.
Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which has about 29,000 members in the state, told lawmakers the union “strongly opposed” SB161, which would ensure that the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) acts on information that would disqualify former police officers from re-employment.
“At what point is there overkill in monitoring, disciplining, or calling into question the overall character of police officers?” asked Brian Anderson, Council 4’s lobbyist.
“If it puts forward an even greater ability to dismiss officers from their career…then we are against it.”
Milford police chief Keith Mello, who chairs POST, had previously told lawmakers about at least one instance in which an officer had avoided an “investigation for serious misconduct” by resigning and then taking a job with another municipality.
State law puts notification requirements on the former and prospective employers but doesn’t explicitly bar POST from certifying officers who may have retired or resigned during misconduct investigations.
It’s not clear whether SB161 would allow POST to retroactively decertify police officers who slipped through the cracks.
The bill would separately lower the threshold for officers to lose their certification if an investigation shows just one instance of an ‘unjustifiable’ amount of physical force. Under current law, officers risk decertification for “repeated use of excessive force.” The bill also subjects an officer to decertification on the more general charge of “intimidation or harassment causing injury based upon actual or perceived protected class membership, identity or expression.”
AFSCME is walking a tightrope because its leadership has committed the union broadly to social-justice causes, but it continues to count many police officers among its ranks. In Connecticut, AFSCME has struggled to keep those police officers paying dues, and three of its Connecticut locals have voted to stop being part of AFSCME and instead join the Fraternal Order of Police, a smaller union that is more focused on law enforcement.
Oddly enough, police officers still paying AFSCME dues are bankrolling both sides of the argument. Council 4 opposes SB161, but its parent union, AFSCME International—which gets the first $150 of each officer’s dues—has publicly lobbied for almost exactly what Council 4 is opposing. AFSCME International in 2020 called for the creation of “a national database” to prevent officers from being rehired elsewhere if they have “resigned while facing allegations of flagrant misconduct.”