NORWALK, Conn. — Community policing, accountability and body cameras were all discussed at a roundtable held Friday on increasing trust between police and communities of color in Norwalk — and the nation.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Mayor Harry Rilling and Police Chief Tom Kulhawik were joined at City Hall by several community leaders in Norwalk.
Blumenthal said the relationships between the police department and Norwalk are better than in many places in the state and the country. “One reason why the relationships are better is that you reach out. You can’t just wait for wait for people always to come to you: You need to reach out to them.”
But members of the panel said there is still room for improvement when it comes to increasing trust between the community and the police.
Though the Rev. Lindsay Curtis said, “None of us are right all the time,” he called for greater accountability on the part of police officers. In the past, he said, the public was asked to "see something, say something." Curtis said he wants those in the police department to do the same when they see something that is wrong.
“I’m asking the same thing of law enforcement,” Curtis said. “I know we have good cops. Many of them are friends. And I’m proud to say that. But if you’re a good cop and you see bad behavior [and don’t report it] you are complicit with that bad behavior.”
State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-Norwalk) said the use of body cameras by police could also build trust and respect in the community. Morris said police body cameras encourages good behavior. When both police officers and citizens are on camera, “everyone is more respectful,” he said.
Kulhawik said the department has been using body cameras and they have been “well received.” But he said, “they’re only a small piece of the whole puzzle.”
Training and recruitment is important as well, Kulhawik said. The department has been getting a set of diverse “quality recruits” and the department is very selective when hiring, he said.
Another speaker on the panel said more education and training could also help improve relations.
Councilwoman Faye Bowman said rights can be confusing for both police officers and citizens alike during traffic stops. Speaking about whether a driver has to consent to a search, she said the rules are “not always clear.”
The education is “maybe that’s something we can all do together,” she said.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.