Category Archives: News

Protest Turned Riot Deepens the Divide

by Christopher Caceres

In an effort to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans and to secure legal recognition and federal protection of the citizenship rights stated in the Constitution, Martin Luther King Jr. established a non negotiable set of rules for protesters eager to join the movement. Predicated on the ideals of nonviolence, protesters had to refrain from violence, abstain from instigating violence and, above all, promote a message of tolerance and love.

“Nonviolence is power, but it is the right and good use of power,” said Dr. King.

Last Wednesday night, students and local residents gathered at the University of California, Berkeley to oppose the scheduled on-campus appearance of a Breitbart News editor and infamous right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos. The group threw rocks at police, assaulted fellow protesters, setoff “commercial grade fireworks,” smashed windows and threw Molotov cocktails.

From Washington, to Portland, to Oakland, protests have been outlets for a minority of radicals looking to perpetuate hate and violence under the belief that the end justifies the means.

The rioters were so consumed with hate that they attacked individuals with similar ideologies but different methodologies, forgoing progress for intolerance. What started as a peaceful protest became a riot, undermining the protesters message and putting an already vulnerable community of minorities at risk to backlash.

“When you use violence, two things happen,” said Pamela Oliver, a University of Wisconsin-Madison sociology professor who studies protests. “One is it justifies repression; and two, there’s many people who are kind of moderates who might be sympathetic, but who tend to turn against a movement if it becomes violent.”

Ironically, by preventing Mr. Yiannopoulos from speaking, they stripped him of his first amendment right, and by doing so became no better than the government and ideologies they so adamantly reject. As posed in a New York Times article, “What does this campus [UC Berkeley] represent if it doesn’t respect the rights of people with whom many of us disagree?”

Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, if you cross the line into a place where conflict and violence become an acceptable means of achieving your objectives, you lose credibility and commit to a world no better than the one you are in now.

What if a Trump supporter dressed as a Nazi had been killed? Would that have been acceptable? And if one is acceptable, what about two? If it is acceptable to take the lives of two people on the basis that they are intolerant racists, and it’s ultimately for the greater good, is it okay if a stray civilian gets killed in the process? And if losing one civilian life is okay, is three? There is a great distance between protesting for your beliefs and actively putting lives at risk to bring visibility to a cause. Martin Luther King understood that. Violence begets violence. Once you decide to step into a world where conflict and violence are an acceptable means to an end, there is no progress, only regression.

Civil disobedience is fundamental to a country’s growth. By peacefully challenging the status quo, you force citizens to view the world through an empathic lens. It defies the establishment while maintaining respect, which preserves the dignity and truth of a cause. To deviate from this principle is counterproductive and small.

To the Berkeley rioters and like-minded individuals, there’s a name for those who, through the use of violence, terror and fear attempt to achieve political, religious or ideological aims: terrorists.

Instead, look towards the Women’s Rights protesters and the Standing Rock protesters. They let their courage speak for them and for the merit of their cause. They are choosing to do what’s right over what’s easy. They are implementing a nonviolent approach established by their predecessors. There is an undervalued bravery in choosing peace over the instant gratification of rage and aggression.

When Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama; when Martin Luther King was beaten and unjustly arrested; when John Lewis had his head bashed in on the Selma bridge; when the Freedom Riders were assaulted almost to death in the South, they didn’t attack their attackers. They let what is right speak for itself, and by doing so changed the world. Their fundamental ideals captured the attention of the nation and brought about positive radical change.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes,” said Dr. King.

The courage not to fight is harder and less satisfying than provoking an opponent. It takes an inner strength few of us possess. The Berkeley rioters may have achieved their immediate goal, but the means by which the rioters went about accomplishing that end deepens our divide by strengthening the notion of “us” and “them” and compromises the ideals this country was founded upon.

Dwindling Obamacare

by Sarah Willson

Before President Trump had even taken office, Senate Republicans began their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare provides affordable healthcare insurance for an estimated 18 to 24 million people.

The Senate voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a 51-48 vote on Thursday, Jan. 5, just eight days before Trump’s inauguration. The final vote took place around 1:30 a.m.

According to an article entitled “House Takes First Steps Towards Repealing Obamacare” by CNN, on Friday, Jan. 13, the House of Representatives voted to approve the repeal of Obamacare with a tally of 227-198.

“This resolution will set the stage for true legislative relief from Obamacare that Americans have long demanded while ensuring a stable transition,” said Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi.

“The Obamacare bridge is collapsing and we’re sending in a rescue team,” said Enzi.

Democratic Senators protested in the Senate as Republicans cast their votes, angered by the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress had made no formal plans to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats, including Vermont Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, spoke at the protest and voiced their concerns over the repeal.

“I think it’s important for this country to know this was not a usual thing, this is a day which lays the groundwork for 30 million people to be thrown off their health insurance, and if that happens, many of these people will die,” said Sanders.

Like many in Washington D.C., Central Connecticut State University students had their own opinions and concerns when it came to discussing the Affordable Care Act.

Ashley Ciarlo, a junior at CCSU, explained that while some people may find Obamacare helpful, it ultimately does more harm than good.

“People who have private health care are not getting the benefits that they need because Obamacare is raising the cost of their insurance” said Ciarlo. “I’m glad Trump is repealing it.”

Ciarlo goes on to suggest that Trump and his cabinet should push for all Americans to have their own private health insurance, believing that the cost of coverage would lower for most middle-class families.

“Nobody should be paying for anyone but themselves,” said Ciarlo.

Kenzie Merza, who is finishing her junior year at CCSU, has a different take on Trump’s plan.

“It helps people who cannot afford healthcare have an opportunity that they may not have otherwise”, said Merza. “Repealing Obamacare is fine, as long as there’s another plan to replace it. You cannot just take something away and leave everyone uninsured.”

Merza later states that she believes  a single-payer healthcare system, or Medicare for all, would be the best plan to replace Obamacare.

“No one should have to work multiple jobs to afford healthcare,” said Merza.

Although Merza understands this would raise taxes on middle-class families, she still believes that millionaires’ and billionaires’ taxes should increase in order to help those who cannot afford insurance.

Although both students expressed opposing views, they agreed that those who are currently covered under the Affordable Care Act should have enough time to find new insurance.

“You can’t just leave everyone stranded,” said Ciarlo. “No one should be left behind when it comes to something as serious as their health,” said Merza.

According to an article published by CNN entitled “The GOP’s Incredible, Shrinking Obamacare Repeal,” as of now, the process of repealing Obamacare will take months to finalize.

Greg Walden, the GOP chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says there is a “mega-bill” that will soon attempt to take the place of Obamacare.

There is no word on what the bill entails, or if and when it will pass.

Supreme Court Nominee

by Sophia Contreras

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, President Donald Trump named Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court. Gorsuch has an outstanding resume with degrees from Columbia, Harvard Law School and Oxford. Gorsuch also clerked for conservative Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals, as well as Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court.

If Gorsuch’s nomination is approved, it will not be his first time in Washington. Aside from being highly regarded during the Bush administration, Gorsuch also spent much of his childhood in D.C. while his mother, Anne Gorsuch, served in the Reagan administration as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2006, Gorsuch was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals by the Bush administration. Gorsuch is most well-known for his conservative views. He has openly opposed federal birth control funding, women’s rights and the restriction of religious influences in the work place, along with having sided with corporations over working class people.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised his voters a conservative judge who would follow previous Justice Scalia’s views. Gorsuch promises to do just that, and has openly stated his admiration for Justice Scalia.

“Justice Scalia was a lion of the law, and I will act as a servant of the Constitution and laws of this country,” said Gorsuch during the announcement of his nomination at the White House.

Gorsuch is 49 years old and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado with his wife, Louise, and two daughters. Gorsuch’s young age will allow him to carry Trump’s promise of a conservative judge for an extended period of time. Gorsuch’s views include protecting the second amendment and enforcing the death penalty when necessary.

Despite Gorsuch’s impressive resume and experience, he has received major pushback from Democrats who fear that having another conservative judge like Scalia will prevent them from having majority, making them dependent on the Supreme Court swing vote of Justice Kennedy.

Democrats are also upset because, during the Obama administration, Republicans refused to hold hearings for Obama’s nominee, with the reasoning that the election was only eight months away. Democrats have said they would “fight tooth and nail” and question Gorsuch’s credentials and experience. It has been rumored that the Democrats plan on holding a filibuster to prevent Gorsuch from becoming a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Research done by professors from Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Harvard University have found that, in addition to Gorsuch’s ideologies, political donations have also pushed similar conservative ideologies. The researchers found, “Judge Gorsuch is estimated to be more conservative than 87 percent of all other federal judges.”

The current vote is 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. If the filibuster cannot be broken, Trump has suggested using the “nuclear option,” which refers to leaving it up to a simple majority instead of the 60 required votes. However, this decision is ultimately up to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.

The next confirmation hearing is predicted to take place in about six weeks. Until then, Democrats stated they plan to stand their ground and continue with their filibuster.

West Hartford Holds Immigration Protest

by Humera Gul

Signs calling for the end of executive orders were seen as hundreds of people protest against President Donald Trump’s executive order last Friday to temporarily ban travel from seven Muslim countries, at the West Hartford Town Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

The crowd chanted, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.”  This phrase exemplifies the frustrations that people have on both sides of the political spectrum.

Many Muslim and non-Muslim people gathered to show their support for immigrants and refugees, while holding signs and protesting. There were also speeches from protest organizers, students and local leaders that support the Muslim community.

“We will not turn our back on refugees and we will not give ISIS more material to refute to religious hate.  We stand for Connecticut values, we stand for the United States and we stand for human rights,” said Mobashar Akram, director of the Islamic Center of Connecticut.

“We want a leader, not a traitor. Today we stand together with everyone and we say an attack on one of us is an attack on all us. We will fight back in Congress, we will fight back in the streets and we will fight back wherever we can through legal means,” said Akram.

“Trump’s executive order is cruel. This action is a new low, a stain on our history,” said Mayor Shari Cantor of West Hartford, from the stage set up for speeches at the top of the steps of the town hall.

The presidential campaign included a lot of hate rhetoric, especially towards Muslims and Mexicans. Now, it is clear that it wasn’t just talk; actions are being put into place.

Many people at the protest were angry, questioning why the ban was put forth in the first place.

“This isn’t a matter of security at all.  If it were a matter of security, I would not care, but we are blaming an entire religion and seven countries of that religion for a crime no one has ever done in our country,” said John Boyko, a protestor at the event. “No person from the seven banned countries has ever carried out an act of terrorism.  Fear is being used to drive out love and humanity,” said Boyko.

Many people who attended the rally shared their thoughts about the new executive order.

“I cannot explain how it feels. We are facing so much hatred and racism, and the president is promoting it. We do not feel safe anymore,” said Aadil Khan, another protestor.
The travel ban is for 90 days, and more countries can be withdrawn from the ban after the first 30 days.

After a lot of pressure from media, politicians and world leaders, Trump does not seem to be backing down from his executive order to ban Muslims and immigration.

A March for Unity


Cancelled courses reach all time high

by Angela Fortuna

More courses than ever have been cancelled this spring due to low enrollment at Central Connecticut State University.

“Cancellation of courses is the result of low enrollment a couple of weeks prior to the start of classes,” said Associate Dean and professor of biology Richard Roth.

The amount of cancelled courses for each academic department is different. Courses that are required in departments such as science and English see a smaller number of cancelled courses than ones students typically take as electives.

“We ended up having to cancel a couple of classes this semester due to low enrollment,” said Anthropology Department Acting Chair Kenneth Feder.

“Classes are generally cancelled when there is low student demand, and that isn’t the case for most [business] courses,” said Dean of the School of Business Ken Colwell.

According to Patrick Tucker from the Registrar’s Office, there were 124 courses cancelled this spring. In the spring semester of 2016, only 100 courses were cancelled, and in the spring semester of 2015, 85 courses were cancelled.

According to Kimberley Dumouchel-Cody, Advising and Career Specialist from the Center for Advising and Career Exploration (CACE), reasons why a course is cancelled include not enough students interested in taking the course, inconvenient times and the relocation of the professor. Often times, students and staff are not directly told why a course is cancelled.

At the end of the fall semester, students were given a day and time in which they were able to register for classes. Students with a higher number of credits were able to register for courses earlier than students with little to no credits.

“The big issue that we see all the time concerns timing. Students can’t always register in advance, usually it’s a financial issue holding them up, so some small classes are under enrolled by the time decisions are made to cancel,” said Feder.

Many students are unable to register for courses in advance because of holds on their account, which is mainly due to unfulfilled financial obligations. This gives the registrar the impression that only the students signed up for a class at the end of early registration want to take that class.

“Despite our best planning, enrollments fluctuate over time and sometimes our estimates are off,” said Colwell.

Even with the higher number of cancelled courses this spring, there are courses that are completely full in every day and time offered, leaving some students unable to take that class. Typically, these are the required courses like physical education and mathematics.

Many freshmen were unable to get into physical education courses this year, particularly PE 144.

Like a class can be cancelled, it can also be added, although the process is more difficult. For freshmen, transfer students and undeclared exploratory majors, Dumouchel-Cody said students have to go to the academic department for the class they are trying to get into. On top of that, CACE contacts the academic department to get more seats added to a class or to get more classes offered in general. The more students who go to the academic department, the better the chances are. Unfortunately, this process does not always work.

“It is so very important for students to register for their courses on time. That is the only way that we, as administrators, know what students need for the upcoming semesters,” said Roth.

Students and Faculty Fight for Higher Education

by Angela Fortuna and Sarah Willson

Students and faculty from across Connecticut rallied for affordable, quality higher education on the North Steps of the State Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 26.

The day-long rally involved hearing from legislators and expert panelists, as well as union and community leaders who were invited to voice their concerns about education, defunding and spending cuts.

“Today, in Hartford, groups of people from [Connecticut State Universities] and other various institutions are rallying together with the common goal of keeping the cost of tuition down and providing a better education,” said Central Connecticut State University student Teri-Lynn Bailey.

The rally, held in the Old Judiciary Room of the State Capitol Building,  included lobbying legislators, a student panel discussion and a Q&A with film director Steve Mims.

Participants had the privilege of taking part in a student panel discussion and viewing of the documentary, “Starving the Beast.” The film, released in March of 2016, focuses on state funding of public universities and the increasing cost of in-state college tuition. It explains, “College costs too much and delivers too little,” due to its lack of government funding.

The government is, “Trying to attack young people who are just trying to find a way to educate themselves,” said Southern Connecticut State University Professor Stephen Monroe Tomczak.

During the Q&A, the audience voiced questions, concerns and comments.

“They’re designing the system to fail,” said a participant in the discussion of the documentary.

“The government wants to cut funding to public institutions of higher education which would result in students and families paying more to attend college,” said Bailey.

When two legislators were asked about the issue, both said they wanted to stop cutting the budget for professors and their students, believing that it negatively impacts students.

Students and faculty expressed concern about the quality of the high-cost education that young people are receiving.

Tomczak and CCSU Professor John O’Connor believe that the value of public education has remained the same, even as school tuitions continue to rise.

“The reasons are purely political, not economical,” said Tomczak.

Counselors and services have been cut at CCSU over the years. Tuition also continues to rise every year.

“We have to work together,” said O’Connor.

Events like the rally help raise awareness to the issues of education defunding, spending cuts and tuition increases.

“If you want something to change, the only way to do it is by banding together with people who have a similar passion,” said Bailey.

SGA Readership Program

by Analisa Novak

Central Connecticut State University students will once again have unlimited access to the New York Times, thanks to a program re-launched by the Student Government Association (SGA).  The newspapers will be available complimentary, both in physical copy and online, starting this week according to SGA Academic Affair Chair, Wyatt Bosworth.

The SGA Readership Program is an enhancement of the previous newspaper subscription platform, that was available on campus up until last year. It ended after various different organizations stopped sponsoring free copies of both the New York Times and USA Today, leaving the campus with no national newspapers available.

After bringing the motion to the senate last year, Senator Bosworth argued for a school as populated as CCSU, a newspaper subscription is essential.

“You go to any public university of this size, there’s a physical newspaper. That’s an expectation of attending a high quality institution,” Bosworth said.

The motion was passed 24-4, with those not in favor arguing that the SGA shouldn’t be paying for a service that is already free.

“I like the idea of having the paper, if you go on the databases on our website, you can gain access to the New York times with today’s date, it goes back to 1980, so we do have access to it already,” said Senator Ariana Simeone.

The CCSU library does offers the New York Times on their database search, but only has one paper version for students to use. It could not leave the library and is on a first come, first serve basis.

“The papers that SGA provides are more up to date, because we usually get them much later than they do,” CCSU library technical assistant Alberto Cifuentes Jr. said.

The SGA Readership Program will offer complimentary copies of the New York Times located throughout various newsstand located on campus, including Memorial Hall and the Student Center.

“You need something to look at, that you can take where you go. We need actual copies. As we have seen today, most of us didn’t even know about this free access,” said Senator Caitlin Moreau

CCSU students will also receive access through digital passes, that can be accessed through mobile or online devices. Unlike the CCSU Library database, the SGA Readership Program will have full access to all articles, including photo and videos. Students can easily access any article even on the go, with the digital pass option.

“I like the on-go option the most, I honestly don’t read actual papers a lot, so I am more likely now to read issues, now that its on my phone,” said CCSU student Kaylah Gore.

The passes are available on a 24 hour renewal basis on the New York Times website. The number of passes are capped at 222, which is the same amount of newspapers that the campus receives.

 

Sitting Down with Dr. Toro

by Lauren Lustgarten

After a seven-month, nationwide search, on Oct. 20, the Board of Regents for Higher Education unanimously voted to make history at Central Connecticut State University. On Jan. 3, Dr. Zulma Toro became the first female and the first Hispanic president of the university.

As the first woman president of CCSU, many wonder if gender will have a positive or negative effect on the goals set in place and the future of the university, if any effect at all. Dr. Toro has never seen gender as an obstacle or something that makes anyone more or less than anybody else.

“Although, I do think that people have different expectations because of my gender and/or because of my ethnicity. Those expectations could be higher or lower for me rather than for other presidents, but that reality can open so many doors for me,” said Dr. Toro. “Given the demographics of this region, given the things this region needs to move forward, I think those are all assets that will help me in moving CCSU forward. I am a human being, a professional, trying to do the best I can for something I am passionate about.”

Just a few weeks into Dr. Toro’s first semester, she has already made strides in accomplishing all that she envisions for the future of CCSU.

“I have been not only meeting with the academic departments and faculty, but also our support offices to learn first what they do so I can understand where the action happens and what kind of opportunities we have to grow those programs and the type of education experiences they offer to students,” said Dr. Toro. “Also, I talk to them about where I see CCSU going and what I think the priorities will be that will guide the strategic planning process that we will engage ourselves in in the next few weeks.”

This process has been going very well, as Dr. Toro has learned quite a bit about CCSU. She has been able to use the information she has gathered to advocate for Central when she meets with legislatures. “At the same time, I am working with the leadership team, the union and faculty leaders to start moving forward with the priorities I have identified for the institution,” said Dr. Toro.

Dr. Toro’s first priority for CCSU is enrollment.

“We will be focusing on increasing enrollment, and to increase that, there are a lot of things we have to look at it. From the way we recruit students, to the way we retain students, to the educational experience we offer, to the marketing of the programs, to understanding what the things are that prospect students are looking for, but also what the things are that employers are looking for. And also, how we can allocate a citizen that is ready to contribute to society,” said Dr. Toro.

She explained the details about her priority of enrollment and the strategic planning process it involves. “So far, we know that we are the largest and the most affordable of the four-year institutions within the system,” said Dr. Toro. “We want to be the largest. We want to be 15,000 students. So, how are we going to get there? What are the things we need to do?”

As enrollment has already been dug into as a goal of Dr. Toro’s, the second priority remains extremely important; community engagement.

“According to the Carnegie Classification, we are a community-engaged institution, but I want the institution to be institutionalized across all programs across everything we do. And we need to do quite a bit of work still,” said Dr. Toro. “The objective is to take the institution to the communities we serve and to bring the communities to the institution; New Britain, Hartford, West Hartford. I want them to come to us for expertise. I want them to think that we are a resource that can work with them in the solution of the most pressing issues they are faced with. We have a lot of students that can be involved with these activities and a lot of faculty that can do scholarly work based on the issues the cities face.”

Dr. Toro doesn’t stop there when it comes to her goals for what she wants CCSU to be and do. The third priority is diversification of sources of funding. “That I will be very involved with. I will be fundraising, cultivating donors, asking donors to support the institutions and this will take me across the nation and also hopefully abroad to engage them in the Institution,” said Dr. Toro. “We will also try grant writing as a source of funding which will support our community engagement and support what we want to do.”

“CCSU has been able to accomplish quite a bit through the years and I can say that the future is really bright for this institution. We are well proficient, we have the commitment of faculty and staff and we have very unique and remarkable students that make us proud,” said Dr. Toro. “We have a lot of good things happening. We just have to assess what is working well, what can be working better and how we can go about strengthening and building upon those foundations to move CCSU to a new level of reputation and recognition. I think that everyone knows within the Central community all the good things we offer. However, that story has not been told enough outside of Central and we have to do that.”

Touching upon last week’s announcement about the new building coming in downtown, Dr. Toro hopes to continue on increasing CCSU’s presence in downtown New Britain. She is pushing to be a partner in the development of the city as she believes the university has the opportunity to help surrounding cities elevate the standard of living.

“Five years from now, when I am listening to a panel of students describing the reasons why they had to come to Central, I want them to say, ‘I came to Central because it was my top choice due to the quality of programs they offer and the opportunities they offer to engage with the communities around them.’ I want Central to be a destination for students. I don’t want Central to be a second choice.”

Dr. Toro earned a doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan and an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from the University of Puerto Rico. Most recently, she was the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, making her the most qualified out of the 69 candidates that were looked at for the position at CCSU.

“We are going to be immortal in the nation in how we educate the student population we are serving and also in how we go about doing what we do; serving our students and our community,” said Dr. Toro.

How Police are Dealing with Mental Health

by Cyrus dos Santos

Police officers are frustrated with the lack of resources available to help handle the ever-growing mental health issues in today’s society.

“You really have to be a psychologist,” said Central Connecticut State University Police Sgt. Jerry Erwin. “Because of our current budget crisis in Connecticut, and nationwide, a lot of social services have been cut.” Erwin acknowledged the toll our economy has taken on social programs that many, including law enforcement officials, have relied on. 

“The people dealing with these mental health issues don’t get the services they should be getting because of budget cuts,” said Erwin. “Police officers now have to be those people.”

Erwin said, referring to local hospitals, that they get people help through other services. However, once admitted, many end up back on the streets after a short while.

“I’m not blaming the hospitals,” said UConn Health Police Officer Sean Butler. “They do their best.”

Butler said that law enforcement does a great job of identifying mental illnesses and getting those suffering from a mental illness to the hospital, while sharing his dissatisfaction with the status quo. 

“We deal with the issues every day, all day. Same people over and over. They go to the hospital and are back, put on the street in hours,” Butler said, while admitting the duration can at times be longer. “But they always end up back on the street and nothing has changed.”

In early 2016, the Connecticut legislature tried to pass House Bill No. 5271 (HB-5271) that focused on law enforcement and their dealings with mental illness. It also would have required all police departments in the state to have an on-call mental health expert available at any time. HB-5271 was defeated in the Appropriations Committee.        

On June 7, 2016, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed House Bill No. 5547 (HB-5547) into action. It calls for an assembled task force to investigate the current training curriculum for all police, both incoming cadets and veteran officers.  

The bill states as follows: “The task force shall examine: (1) The current basic curriculum and practices, (2) the instruction and delivery of the basic curriculum, (3) the feasibility and desirability of offering training at satellite campuses, and (4) such other topics as the task force deems appropriate relating to police training.”

However, many officers do not believe training is the problem.

“The problem isn’t with law enforcement not knowing how to deal with mental illness. The problem is the massive numbers of people with mental illness on the street, and no place for them to receive long-term care. Years ago, there were multiple long-term care facilities for mental illness. The state closed them. The state needs to bring those facilities back,” said Butler.

The Governor’s office did not respond for comment.

This issue does not stop in Connecticut. It is a story that can be found throughout the United States.

“In my 23 years of police work, I can confidently say that the mentally ill and those suffering from drug addiction have not received the treatment they need,” said retired New York Police Department Sgt. Angel Rosa.

The Brooklyn native echoed Erwin’s claim when he said, “Officers are forced to be psychologists, social workers, parents, friends and the list goes on.”

“City and state governments don’t want to spend the money it takes to help these folks,” said Rosa. “In the end, they spend the money on lawsuits and re-training of officers.”   

“What most folks don’t know is that officers are constantly training,” Rosa said, noting that every time something does go wrong, the blame is placed on the training of the officers involved. “Yet that same officer handled hundreds of other [mental illness] cases with no incident.”

In the state of Connecticut, police cadets attend a class designed to prepare them for handling issues surrounding mental health.

“When recruits are going through the academy, there is a specific class, it’s a block of training on awareness of mental health,” said Police Officers Standards and Training Council Certified Instructor Liam O’Brien.

Taking a closer look at the current practice and standards of law enforcement training shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. At least, that is what Berlin Police Chief Paul Fitzgerald thinks.

“I think it’s valid, the examination of the curriculum,” said Fitzgerald, a member of HB-5547’s task force. “However, I think it’s a response to what’s happening across the nation, not so much what is happening in Connecticut.”

“We’re probably one of the best trained states,” he said, “as far as law enforcement goes, in the country.”

Fitzgerald is also a member of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association (CPCA), a strong opponent of the bill that would have demanded departments to employ mental health professionals to aid officers.

“Really, it was cost,” Fitzgerald said, explaining the CPCA’s issue with HB-5271. “It was an expense that was being forced upon the communities.”

Fitzgerald said, ideally, “We would like to have a mental health person with us when we go on a mental health call. But it’s not really feasible. It is an added burden that’s put on police officers.”

Though the task force is in its infancy, there is hope to find a way to fix the current issues.

“I think everything’s on the table,” said Andrew Clark, director for the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy at CCSU and member of HB-5547’s task force. “Everything,” includes the topic of mental health, said Clark.

Since the task force’s first meeting on Dec. 6, 2016, they have established a desire to reach out to the communities for feedback, Clark explained.

“One of the things we’re designing is a survey for populations to say, ‘what do you think could benefit police training?’ So, I imagine one of the things that could happen is surveys to communities and constituent groups, like those in the mental health arena that could say, ‘This is needed,’” said Clark.

On Dec. 7, 2016, the U.S. Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 94-5. It provides $6 billion for public health and medical research and is available nationwide. It was signed into law six days later by President Barack Obama.

According to the Council of State Government Justice Center, the bill covers: “Several criminal justice reform measures related to the issue of mental health, including the enactment of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act and the reauthorization of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act.”           

Despite the claim that Connecticut police officers are some of the best trained in the country, Fitzgerald is not pleased with the support he has seen from the state. 

“Currently, the state has cut funding for our training academy,” said Fitzgerald. “The staff down there has been cut because of the budget deficit. Although police are being asked to do more, and do it better, we’re getting less resources in which to train for those situations.”

“The first thing I’d like to see is improved funding for our training,” said Fitzgerald. “I think the task force will also address that, because everyone wants the police officers to be the best that they can be, and if that’s the case, then we need to train them.”

The task force will meet once a month. Their report is due Oct. 1.