Back to normal, criminal justice reform among Rep. Howard’s top priorities in spring session | Daily news alerts

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STONINGTON — If there’s a goal for spring semester, state Rep. Greg Howard said he needs to get life back to normal for students and children across the state who have seen their education and their lives disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our children have suffered tremendously from this, both academically and emotionally, and it is time to bring them back to the classroom, to get back to interacting with their peers and doing the things they need to learn and grow. “, Howard said in an interview earlier this month. “It’s important that we bring them back to some sense of normalcy again.”

No longer a relative newcomer to politics – Howard, a Stonington police detective, had not sought elected office until running in 2020 and defeating incumbent Democrat Kate Rotella – the 43rd District representative said that ‘He planned to use his experience from his first year in office and expertise to fight for a return to normalcy in public schools, as well as to address criminal justice reform on many fronts, including in the the entire juvenile system and the responsibilities of officers, he says, are handcuffing the Connecticut police.

The first two weeks of session, which began Feb. 9, have only further exposed the need to address these issues, Howard said, and he looks forward to working with fellow Republicans and moving forward. across the aisle to bring about positive change.

When the session began, one of Howard’s top priorities was to see local children given the opportunity to take off their masks, interact with friends, and rediscover a normal, everyday childhood experience. Many children have already lost two years of “normality”, which he says has led to an increase in behavioral problems, learning problems and mental health problems among young people.

Factor in the time lost when students were forced to learn from home for nearly a year, and Howard said there have been more than 200,000 lost in-person learning days in Connecticut since the start. of the pandemic in March 2020.

“There have been many changes, and there is no longer a reason to keep our children masked and separated all day,” Howard said. “I can’t express how negative the impact of using these precautions has been on social and emotional growth.”

At the start of the session, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced that he would recommend easing restrictions and allowing school districts to make their own decision regarding mask use and other COVID safety protocols. -19 as of February 28. The announcement led to an emotional reunion. at Stonington High School which was well attended, with several parents advocating for the choice of the mask.

The meeting ultimately led to the Stonington Board of Education approving a measure that would make masks optional at student choice and work hard to promote kindness and unity among all students and staff, whether or not an individual chooses to wear a mask. Howard applauded the measure, but said there were still many other students across the state who did not have the same opportunity.

Howard said his work on Capitol Hill this session isn’t just limited to pandemic-related issues, either. As a seasoned detective, Howard intends to use his experience to help reform juvenile justice laws and police oversight in the state as well.

Ahead of the session, Howard joined fellow Republican Craig Fishbein, of Wallingford, and others in calling for the implementation of a six-point plan to reduce youth crime.

On a website designed to push effort, StopCarThefts.com, proponents identify initiatives including: requiring mandatory fingerprinting of minors convicted of any Class A felony or misdemeanour; improving law enforcement access to minors’ records for detention after arrest; create an exception to the six-hour deadline for an arresting officer who has requested a detention order in good faith but has not received a response; amend existing laws to better monitor repeat juvenile offenders; and the expedited charging of minors in Class A felony or misdemeanor cases to prevent early release and the commission of additional crimes.

“For many landlords and landlords these crimes are personal, many feel like their voice is not being heard,” Howard said. quickly that they are apprehended. Something must be done. Silence and denial are not the answer.

Howard said it’s not just youth crime that’s a problem, however, and he blamed the Police Accountability Bill for making the problem worse. In many Connecticut cities, he said worries about lawsuits and other issues have left police feeling unable to respond and led to noticeable and dangerous shifts in trends.

Over the past year, Howard said the number of road deaths has been on the rise while the number of traffic stops has dropped significantly. It is impossible not to consider the two correlated, he said, and the problem will get worse as officers fear losing everything even if they do their job to the best of their abilities with the best of intentions.

“There must be responsibility and accountability, but it must be implemented in a way that makes sense and doesn’t leave officers, departments, and cities open to frivolous and unnecessary lawsuits,” he said. he declared.

Howard said among the changes needed is the state clarifying the language surrounding aspects of the police accountability bill, similar to how it was done in a 2019 law passed in California. He said the law there provides much more clarity and less ambiguity on topics such as the use of force, improves circumstances and the ability of police to conduct motor vehicle searches on the basis of ‘reliable probable cause, improving a broken qualified immunity system that threatens the livelihoods of even good officers on the basis of a single complaint, and improving police protections and mental health treatment.

Howard said he knows it won’t be an easy task, but that it will be important for the state in the short and long term to find bipartisan support and craft bills that will address those priorities. as soon as possible.

“We need to put our officers back to work, and we need to get them working in a way that strikes the right balance between accountability, transparency and fairness,” he said.

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