Connecticut lawmakers consider changes after man paralyzed in police custody
A life-changing police custody injury this month could lead to changes in state law, but critics say action is coming too late.
Richard “Randy” Cox was severely injured when a New Haven police transport van he was in stopped abruptly, sending him flying head first into a door. Instead of stopping for help, officers took him to jail and forced him into a wheelchair, despite Cox saying, “My neck is broken.”
Cox remains hospitalized and his family says he can’t move from the chest down.
"Where's the first-aid training?” asked Latoya Boomer, Cox's sister. “Where's the on-the-job training?"
Under Connecticut law, if someone gets hurt during an arrest or transport, police officers are not required to call for emergency help. A proposed bill would have mandated that police "immediately request emergency medical services,” including for behavioral, substance abuse or mental health issues.
The proposal passed the state Senate unanimously, but House lawmakers ran out of time to vote on it.
"It'll certainly be a priority for us in the Senate again next year,” said Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven).
Looney introduced the bill, saying policies are too vague right now.
"The New Haven department, I think, already had recommended procedures in place that apparently were not followed in this case,” he said. "Having a state law that mandates it would remove all confusion."
Looney's bill did not include penalties for officers who fail to call for emergency help.
"It would just be something the police would have to incorporate into their training,” said Looney. “Obviously there could be a penalty attached based upon what the General Assembly thought at the time would be necessary."
Other legislators say the incident will lead to new laws.
"The people in the building understand what's going on in the streets and what is needed,” said state Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven).
Lawmakers may also require seat belts in police transport vans, something Cox’s van did not have. New Haven police have since taken vans without belts out of service.
The Connecticut NAACP says it's too little, too late.
“They knew about the situation with Freddie Gray several years ago,” said state chapter president Scot X. Esdaile. “They watched cities burn across America years ago and they didn't put those proper protocols into action."
Legislators aren’t scheduled to return to Hartford until next January, unless they or Gov. Ned Lamont call a special session.