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Don't defund New London police; muzzle the union president

Let's be honest, New London's police department, like its schools and social services and every other part of city government, has been defunded for a long time, barely getting by on shoestring budgets.

I take the defund police sentiment of current protests seriously, but not literally.

The preponderance of public opinion behind the message might better be characterized as reform police. Very few people believe we should live without police to enforce our laws.

In that spirit, New London, like so many diverse communities in Connecticut and around the country, should embrace new ways of thinking about policing, initiate robust new ways for the public to participate in that transition and consider ways to reallocate resources so that the answer to all problems is no longer to simply send an armed officer to the scene.

That's much easier said than done, and it's going to take a lot of big thinking on a national scale, and time, to get it done.

Kudos to the New London City Council, which well represents the diversity of the city, for taking a cautious approach this week to local calls for defunding police. They seem to understand it's not a snap budget vote but a process that needs to get underway.

The many good men and women of the city's police department should consider the national context of this conversation and understand it's not aimed as a specific critique of their own hard work. Presumably, changes could help them, as part of the community.

The council, even as it talked about the issue of defunding, agreed this week to accept federal money for hiring six new officers.

I would hope, though, New London police would reject the incendiary rhetoric of Todd Lynch, their police union president, who attacked city councilors this week for raising the issue.

How does the president of the police union get away with shoot-from-the-hip criticism of the duly elected representatives of city residents, calling one "reckless" and bemoaning that a "loud minority" is being listened to.

Yikes.

I think this loud union president has little credibility in this discussion, given a history of citizen complaints against him, including one brought by the NAACP, in which the organization claimed he stopped someone at gunpoint in the New London shopping center, then took him handcuffed into the back room of a nearby store to conduct a body cavity search.

No drugs were found.

A former mayor of the city tried to reduce the size of the police dog program run by Lynch after statistics revealed that, in one year, 100% of the police dog bite victims were Black or Hispanic people. The dogs would often deploy out of open cruiser windows.

Lynch has brought two unsuccessful lawsuits against the former police chief of New London and officers involved in a disciplinary action against him when he was in the Connecticut State Police.

There is a history of contentious tactics at a time the country and this city is demanding a new spirit of community cooperation and accountability in policing.

Mayor Michael Passero and city councilors have clearly signaled they want to work cooperatively with the professionals in the city's police force.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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