Capitol Update/HPD Deputy Chief Foley Talks About Poverty & Hartford Gun Violence

This column appears in the June 4-11 edition of the Hartford News…

Next week’s column will feature a Policy Watch review of the 2015 legislative session, which ended Wednesday. The Senate unanimously passed S.B. 1109, the bill on excessive use of force by police, 36-0. I’m mostly happy with the bill, except for the body cameras provision. Investigations of police shootings would now be handled by a special prosecutor or a prosecutor from a different judicial district than where the death occurred. Police departments would now be prohibited from hiring officers who were terminated or disciplined for wrongdoing or misconduct. Police departments would be legally liable if an officer illegally prevents a person from recording them.

The part of the bill that I have a problem with is the provision which requires Connecticut State Police troopers to wear body cameras, while municipal departments will be “encouraged” but not required to have their officers wear the cameras. Police shootings and brutality cases usually involve officers from municipal departments. Starting in 2017, a pool of $13 million in grants will be provided for municipalities to buy the cameras and store the images. Lawmakers are counting on this financial incentive to get municipal departments to accept the inevitable, or lose the dough. A source told me that Sen. Gary Winfield did push for mandatory body cameras across the board. He should have been supported by other Democrats in the Senate. The bill went to the House of Representatives. Republican Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides told the Connecticut Mirror that the GOP had not agreed to allow S.B. 1109 to be called for a vote prior to the end of the session. As this column went to press, S.B. 1109, H.B. 5437 (Rep. Matt Ritter’s racial profiling bill) and the Community Party’s Safe Work Environment Act (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/community-party-update/) were not enacted by the legislature. In a nonsensical move, lawmakers switched funding from H.B. 5437 to S.B. 1109: more on this next week. The state budget bill, which includes deep cuts to human services, barely passed votes in the House (73-70) and the Senate (19-17). There will be a special session to debate S.B. 1109 and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s so-called Second Chance Society bill (neither bills were called for a House vote) and other legislation necessary to implement the budget.

“The solution you always hear is more cops… That’s been the solution for 50 years. When there’s a spike in crime, you always throw more cops at it. It’s a very short-term solution to the problem.” ~ Hartford Police Lt. Brian Foley talking to the Courant on the need to address the socioeconomic causes of Hartford gun violence.

Last week Foley was interviewed by the local media about the city’s rash of homicides which has brought the total to 12 for this year. Foley talked about the role poverty plays in Hartford gun violence. Mayor Pedro Segarra has ignored the poverty issue since he has been in office. The annual poverty rate in this city hovers between 30% and 40%.The unemployment rate for Black males age 18-25 is as high as 50% in some areas of the city. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/3/17/report_communities_of_color_bear_heaviest Because of the lack of economic opportunity in these neighborhoods, Blacks and Latinos turn to the underground economy to get paid, where violence is an occupational hazard.

A new Connecticut Mirror report found that the concentration of wealth and poverty in Connecticut is among the highest in the nation. “Wealth and poverty are highly concentrated in Connecticut — more so than in many other large metropolitan areas. And often, those neighborhoods are racially and economically segregated from each other. For example, 27 percent of top-earning households live in neighborhoods that are predominantly white and wealthy. In other large metropolitan areas, it’s just 10 percent. Poor residents in greater Hartford and greater New Haven are just as likely to live in an extremely poor, predominantly minority neighborhood as those in greater Detroit or greater Philadelphia. And there are twice as many affluent — and segregated — neighborhoods in Connecticut as there are poor, segregated ones.” http://trendct.org/2015/05/27/connecticut-has-more-concentrated-poverty-and-wealth-than-most-metros/

The response to the summer time spike in gun violence is predictable: 1) “Community leaders” tell terrified residents to start praying. 2) Hartford Democrats ignore the root cause of the violence (poverty). 3) “Community leaders” scream for more police, which is the equivalent of covering a pot that’s boiling over. 4) The governor calls in state troopers to calm the streets down – until next summer… 5) Repeat. Segarra, who is running for re-election, held a closed door meeting last Friday to discuss damage control. Segarra subsequently requested state funds to pay city police officers overtime, one day after Foley said more cops isn’t the answer. Segarra also requested money for social services; too bad it took the city getting shot up for him to do that. Segarra was rightfully criticized by mayoral candidate Luke Bronin, a Democrat, for excluding community residents from a conversation about the violence gripping the city. Segarra clearly wanted to avoid any embarrassment in an open forum that could cost him votes. Like he did with the stadium plan, Segarra decided on a course of action with his circle of allies, then said that he welcomed input from the people.

The Courant reported that Assemblymen Doug McCrory and Angel Arce called out Segarra for claiming that he’s been asking the state for funding. McCrory and Arce expressed their displeasure to reporter Jenna Carlesso. McCrory said, “I’m very disappointed. He says he needs money, but he has never approached anyone in the delegation for funding for the issues he discussed — police resources, anti-violence efforts — that has never been a conversation. Before you ask us again, you’ve got to do it initially. To put the blame on the state for issues that happen in the city — it’s not responsible. You have to be able to work with the delegation, not pit one against the other. That’s not collaborative.” Rep. Arce added, “We’re not happy. We’re over here working our butts off and you’re making it look like the state’s the one to blame. We send plenty of money to the city.”

The uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore have forced a national conversation about the link between poverty and racial profiling/police violence. Ferguson and other Missouri municipalities have been balancing their budgets with revenue generated from ticketing and jailing poor community residents. Last week CP sent a Freedom of Information request to the Centralized Infractions Bureau, in an effort to find out if this practice is happening in Hartford.

A Courant editorial asked where Segarra has been during the wave of gun violence. The more important question is why Segarra, City Council President Shawn Wooden and the Hartford Democrats continue to avoid the poverty issue. The proliferation of illegal guns since the 1980’s has resulted in a street culture where disputes that led to fistfights back in the day are now settled with bullets. People shouldn’t be satisfied because Segarra goes to the site of a shooting, like he did when a man was shot in the face last Saturday on Barbour Street. That’s nothing but a photo op.

Last year my colleague Mary Sanders and I presented an urban policy plan in this space which included Temporary Assistance for Needy Familes (TANF) reform and the creation of a New Deal/WPA type of employment program targeting communities with the highest poverty and unemployment rates. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/election-2014-urban-agenda-analysisct-polling-locations/ We have reached a tipping point in this country with the confluence of protests against biased policing, extrajudicial killings of Blacks and the economic conditions which fuel urban crime and contact between police officers and residents in low income communities of color. The Black Lives/Black Women Matter movements are not a fad; they will continue to evolve. In Wisconsin, Black Lives Matter activists marched with labor unions to protest the extrajudicial killing of unarmed Black teen Tony Robinson and Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s draconian human services funding cuts. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2015/03/11/3632325/unions-black-lives-matter-activists-join-forces-scott-walker/ The Democrats will continue to be pressured to implement policies that will address racial disparities in the United States.

Resources

United for a Fair Economy urban policy plan:

http://www.faireconomy.org/news/state_of_the_dream_2010_drained

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary. https://www.facebook.com/david.samuels.948 Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Check out our No Sellout blog ( https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s for selected columns ( http://www.northendagents.com/) . Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com

David Samuels

Founder

Community Party

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