In the hours before the deadline to pass a state budget on Monday, July 27, legislators shifted their attention briefly to quickly approve two major bills affecting the criminal justice system in Connecticut.
One was the Second Chance Society legislation proposed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy designed to reduce the rate of incarceration in the state (338 per 100,000 people in 2013) by reducing penalties in drug possession cases and simplifying the process for paroles and pardons. The other was “An Act Concerning Excessive Use of Force,” more commonly known as the body camera bill, which encourages and helps municipalities fund the use of body cameras by police. The bill was formulated in the context of the national discussion about the use of police force in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, and North Charleston, S.C.
We all know that feeling when the daily planner has filled up with obstacles, and e-mail and voice mail is overflowing with conundrums and impossible requests. Nothing is easy, and the day is too short. We really could use someone with the energy, the imagination, and the connections to get things done. Someone with the fresh and youthful approach. Someone like a couple of ageless women we know.
Spring is a season of celebration in Newtown’s schools. The goals set by educators and the educated last September finally come within grasp as May warms into June. The achievements are logged, the achievers listed, bands play, choruses sing, performers take their bows, and awards are bestowed. It all culminates with the Newtown High School graduation ceremonies, which took place this week on Tuesday afternoon at the O’Neill Center at Western Connecticut State University. This is the time when the educational excellence we talk about all year long comes out to be measured and appreciated.
For nine hours on Saturday, June 13, there will be a great circling of compassion, companions, and caring both on and off the track at Newtown High School’s Blue & Gold Stadium for the 2015 edition of local American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. For 11 years, the community has gathered in this way in late spring for some consciousness- and fund-raising on behalf of ACS. More than $2.5 million has been raised in that time in a spirit of celebration in the face of all the trouble and grief that every cancer struggle entails.
Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe’s announcement this week of his retirement seven months from now comes at a difficult time for the Newtown Police Department. Whenever a law enforcement agency faces allegations that one of its own has been flagrantly breaking the law rather enforcing it, as happened to the NPD in April, those in charge have some explaining to do. Of course, there is no explaining away criminal activity within a police department, which is supposed to be the heart of vigilance, discipline, and integrity in a community. As a veteran law enforcement professional with a long career marked by responsibility and duty, Chief Kehoe understands this as well as anyone.
The future does not arrive all at once by overnight express but emerges bit by bit through the often-overlooked interstices in our routine administration of the present. Take, for instance, Item 5 of new business on the agenda of the Board of Selectmen’s June 1 meeting, sandwiched between consideration of the latest update from the Permanent Memorial Commission and a resolution for adopting a Newtown Hazard Mitigation Plan. The “Electric Vehicle Charging Stations” discussion yielded authorization for the public works director and the Sustainable Energy Commission to begin work on a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection grant application for a two-bay charging station for electric vehicles, probably at Fairfield Hills.
By the spring of 2014, Officer Thomas Bean had been off the duty roster of the Newtown Police Department for more than a year. The post traumatic stress disorder he suffered following the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings had disabled him to the point where he could no longer work in his chosen career as a police officer. He had struggled with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts since responding to the mass murder of 20 first graders and six educators. He told the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee at that time that he faced an uncertain financial future — a future that would be far more secure with common sense workers compensation laws on the books covering PTSD for first responders.
It is the time of year when we dig our fingers into the soil, plant seeds, and hope that they will flourish. We look forward to the bounty our gardens will provide. While not the agricultural community that it once was, Newtown is still a place where backyard gardens proliferate.
The simple joy of biting into a sun-ripened tomato or snacking on the sweetness of just-picked berries is a joy, even for those who can afford the best of produce in the off-season. For those who are on a fixed or suddenly reduced budget, the flavor of fresh produce is more than a joy; it is a gift.
Try to turn left at the flagpole. Drive by the high school on your way to work. Try to turn into traffic from any of the businesses near Exit 10. Suddenly, in this fast and distracted world, you will experience that rarest of luxuries: time to just sit and think. This is about the nicest thing we can say about traffic congestion in Newtown.
The arrests in the middle of last week of a Newtown Police sergeant and emergency services dispatcher on federal drug trafficking charges twisted the normal proud narrative we apply to local first responders to a point of painful fracture. The FBI, DEA, and Homeland Security investigations that led to charges against eight Connecticut men, including local police Sergeant Steven Santucci and dispatcher Jason Chickos, concluded that that they illegally distributed steroids and prescription narcotics — the kind of shady transactions we want the police to stop, not initiate.