Sean Spell, Blue Wall of Silence & the Trayvon Martin Act   

by David Samuels

This column appears in the December 15 – 22 edition of the Hartford News…



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Policy Watch: Sean Spell Police Brutality Case 



The details of the investigation that led to the arrest of retired Hartford Police Sgt. Sean Spell, underscores the need for body cameras. Spell has been charged with breach of peace and third-degree assault, after he was caught on a West Hartford Police cruiser dash cam kicking Emilio Diaz, who was handcuffed, in the head during a June 4 arrest following a car chase. 34 HPD officers were involved in the arrest. Only 15 agreed to be interviewed by investigators. If Spell’s actions had not been captured on video, he certainly would never have been charged, much less arrested. The HPD is one of the vast majority of police departments who aren’t complying with the state body cameras law that went into effect in January. The Associated Press reported in August that only 12 out of 100 law enforcement agencies in Connecticut had contacted the Office of Policy and Management, about receiving reimbursement under the $15 million voluntary program. Body cameras alone won’t ensure accountability, but the blue wall of silence around the Spell investigation is a reminder that cameras are essential. The Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act includes a provision that would make body cameras mandatory in Connecticut. Studies show that body cameras curb excessive use of force, and result in a decrease in civilian complaints against officers.



Judiciary Committee member Rep. Bruce Morris urged the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association to support CP’s Trayvon Act traffic stop receipt provision, during a 2015 public hearing. Morris revealed that he had recently been racially profiled, after leaving a late night meeting at the State Capitol. The police have worked to kill this amendment, since we introduced it in 2010. The General Assembly passed our receipt bill in 2012, but repealed the provision in 2013 due to political pressure from the police. We reported in October on the plight of the Hartford Civilian Police Review Board, which is supposed to have nine members and two alternates, but is currently down to the minimum of five members. The Board has had to cancel meetings, because they did not have a quorum to rule on civilian complaints against HPD officers. Our sources at City Hall told us that Mayor Luke Bronin still has not delivered on a promise he made at a North End community meeting two months ago, that he would fully staff the Board.



HPD Chief James Rovella has not provided the Board with the required information on disciplinary action against officers who have sustained civilian complaints. Our sources said, “Bronin and Rovella act as if the Board doesn’t exist.” President-elect Donald Trump, who was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, supports racial profiling in the form of stop-and-frisk, which a New York judge ruled is unconstitutional.  Trump is also on the record as supporting profiling of Muslims, and has promised to deport between two and three million undocumented immigrants. Trump’s unequivocal advocacy of biased policing creates an urgent policy need: Hartford and Connecticut Democrats, who have been willing accomplices in law enforcement’s systematic repression of communities of color, must now create a firewall that will provide a layer of protection for Black and Brown people. Four East Haven police officers were convicted in 2013 on federal charges of violating the civil rights of Latinos. Abuses included racial profiling, including targeting undocumented immigrants. The Samuel DuBose and Philando Castile cases show how racial profiling can lead to murder. Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing was arrested after he executed DuBose in 2015, during a traffic stop. A subsequent statistical analysis revealed a pattern of racial profiling by UCPD officers. St. Anthony Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez faces a manslaughter charge after fatally shooting Castile, who was stopped 52 times by police in Minnesota.





Community Party Trayvon Martin Act Bill Language

Written by Mary Sanders


Introduction ~ It’s time to take action to stop racial profiling and police containment in Black and Brown communities here in Connecticut.  Every 28 hours a Black person is killed somewhere by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, according to a Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report . . The veracity of the MXGM report has been disputed. See the Resources section below for a Washington Post editorial on the report, including a rebuttal by the report’s author. Trayvon was shot and killed after being confronted on the street by Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch leader. Dunn shot Jordan Davis during an argument about loud music. Former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant in 2009. See: Police in the United States kill at a rate of 70 times more than police in all other ‘first world’ nations.   CP’s Trayvon Martin Act is aimed at addressing this public safety crisis.



The Trayvon Martin Act calls for the creation of a legislative task force on police misconduct and includes some of CP’s original racial profiling bill language. The CT legislature passed some of our provisions in 2012 and they were scheduled to go in effect July 1, 2013. Our traffic stop receipt language was repealed in favor of a version emphasizing electronic data collection and analysis, instead of a copy of the mandated “Traffic Stop Report” going to the motorist.  We believe this copy is the only way for motorists to know how their race is being represented and is a proven factor in undetected biased policing.  We sat in on testimony of dozens of motorists of color from around the state who were stopped, harassed, given tickets with race recorded as White, and heard of many other biased law enforcement actions.


Problem: Drivers do not get a copy of the Stop Report which has allowed some officers to lie about the race of the people they stop.  Some victims of profiling may not complain because they don’t know officers are covering up the profiled stops. As we mentioned previously our traffic stop language was passed by lawmakers in 2012 but was repealed due to pressure by the police before it was scheduled to become law in 2013.

Add to current law:  1) “Traffic Stop Reports are to be filled out in duplicate so that each motorist receives a copy of the completed form from the officer, in addition to any ticket or summons if one is issued.  2) The copy of the report should be given to the driver as well as the information on filing complaints if motorists believe they have been profiled.  3) If the reports are entered into an electronic data collection system a copy will be immediately available to the detained driver.”

Problem:  Drivers and their passengers are being asked for I.D’s. and questioned about their immigration status even when they are clearly not involved in criminal activity.

Add to current law: “ 1) The driver shall only be asked for a: Driver’s License, the Vehicle Registration and Proof of Insurance and no other identification or questions about immigration status;  2) Passengers shall not be asked for any identification or questions about their immigration status unless they are being arrested for criminal activity.”

Problem:   Men of color are stopped and frisked or worse in every corner of our state; community residents have reported to us that if they dare challenge police officers in their neighborhood, they are often thrown to the ground, cuffed and arrested, then charged with resisting arrest. This happens to our teenagers in schools as well as on our streets.  Many have been beaten or shot by police or others with “authority”, often fatally as the MXGM report shows.

Add to current law:  “1)  Create a Legislative Task Force which would serve in the following capacities: a) investigate complaints of misconduct of state or local police officials,  b) provide training and oversight to public school guards, university and transportation police,  c) provide training and oversight of neighborhood watch organizations and properly screen and monitor persons functioning in these roles;  2) the Task Force will reserve spots for urban lawmakers whose constituents are disproportionately affected by these issues;  3) the Task Force will conduct monthly public hearings around the state, days and evenings, which would also be broadcast by the Connecticut Network for television or online viewing;  4) the Task Force will create a process whereby people could file formal complaints about profiling and harassment by police or other law enforcement authorities through their legislators’ offices or CHRO.”  5) Body cameras will be mandatory for all municipal patrol officers. 

6) Elected, independent, community based investigators will probe all complaints regarding excessive use of force, resulting in injury or death.

The Community Party supports the demands of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which are listed in their racial justice plan.





Community Party Radio Hosted by David Samuels with Mary Sanders – Show 36 December 6 2016 Tribute to Black Panther Party Chair Fred Hampton:




Washington Post editorial on MXGM Operation Ghetto Storm Report. Includes a rebuttal by the report’s author:




Walker Report: Baltimore Police Union Contract Impedes Accountability




Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and world news headlines. Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary.   Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives and So-Metro Radio the first, third and fifth Tuesday of each month at 8:00 PM for commentary on urban issues  Check out our No Sellout blog ( for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s archive for selected columns ( Contact us at 860-206-8879 or













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