Yale Daily News

Amid nationwide protests against police brutality, the candidates for Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District are divided over approaches to policing in this election. 

Republican candidate Margaret Streicker has taken a “law and order” stance and has affirmed her support for law enforcement — earning theirs in turn — while 15-term incumbent Rosa DeLauro is committed to police reform, though she has fallen short of endorsing activists’ calls to defund the police..

DeLauro, a New Haven Democrat, supports the Black Lives Matter movement and liberal policies like the U.S. House of Representatives’ Justice in Policing Act. Streicker, on the other hand, criticized DeLauro “and her radical left friends” in an interview with the News. Streicker has decried the Black Lives Matter movement and voiced her unequivocal support for law enforcement amid national protests against police brutality.

FiveThirtyEight modeling shows that DeLauro is “very likely” to win her bid for reelection. But the race for Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District reflects a broader national divide in attitudes towards the police.

Streicker: Law and Order

Streicker has aligned herself with the Blue Lives Matter countermovement which advocates for protecting police officers and was formed in response to Black Lives Matter. In her speeches and flyers and in an interview with the News, Streicker has consistently stated her respect for police officers. 

“I’ve always had a close working relationship with police departments and I certainly respect all of our men and women in blue,” Streicker said. “I look forward to representing all of our constituents’ interests, and certainly including theirs.”

Streicker told the News that if she were elected, she would focus on policies that train the police to respond to a multitude of situations. She cited empathy and anti-terrorism trainings as programs that will help the police do their jobs better.

Streicker added that she would also increase funding for police departments, such as for body cameras.

“If we are trying to hold our officers to ever-increasing standards and have ever-increasing compliance added on, we do owe them the funds with which to execute them,” Streicker said.

Increased funding for the police stands in contrast with calls from Black Lives Matter activists and protestors to defund the police. Streicker said that while she believes all Americans should have equal protection and opportunity under the law, she does not support the Black Lives Matter movement –– due to what she calls its “riots and looting” and “disrespect for law enforcement.”

Streicker’s public support for police departments has earned her the endorsements of over a half-dozen police unions across Connecticut, including New Haven’s Elm City Local and police unions in West Haven, East Haven, North Haven, Ansonia, Derby, North Branford and Madison. She also noted that her endorsement from the Connecticut Fraternal Order of the Police is the first endorsement that the statewide group has ever made for a federal, non-executive branch office.

Tensions between Democrats in public office and police groups have risen across the country over the last few months due to the Democratic Party’s support for policies that limit the scope of the police’s power. Connecticut has been no exception. In August, Governor Ned Lamont signed “An Act Concerning Police Accountability.” The law altered police officers’ qualified immunity from civil suits, making it easier for those who believe they have been wronged by the police to sue police departments and its officers. The law also created a new office to investigate police killings and requires all police officers to wear body cameras.

Streicker fiercely opposes the law and told the News that it has resulted in a sharp loss of morale amongst police officers in Connecticut.

John Krupinsky, president of the Connecticut Fraternal Order of Police, shares Streicker’s discontent. He said that provisions – like the one barring police from pressuring car drivers to consent to vehicle searches – will result in rampant crime.

 “The whole bill is bad,” Krupinsky said. “[The Democratic Party] put in this bill that unless I receive serious physical injury, meaning I got shot when a guy is shooting at me, if he misses me and decides to run away, I can’t shoot back.”

Krupinsky said that if Streicker is elected, she will address policies that the Connecticut police accountability bill lacks, such as community policing. He added that federal grants, including funding for cops to patrol neighborhood streets, would help police departments like New Haven’s.

Both Krupinsky and Streicker emphasized that respect for police officers means respect for the community. Streicker told the News that she believes that 99 percent of police officers are “good” and that ensuring police officers have the resources to fight crime will ensure safety in communities.

DeLauro: Reform, not defund

Unlike Streicker, DeLauro has not made policies regarding the police a primary tenet of her campaign. Still, DeLauro told the News that she supports police “reform” –– but does not support defunding the police. 

DeLauro also co-sponsored the 2020 Justice In Policing Act. The bill includes provisions that ban police officers from using chokeholds, limit police departments’ access to military weapons and define lynching as a federal hate crime. She supports the Black Lives Matter movement and has criticized the law when it has failed to protect Black people from police violence. In September, she tweeted that the lack of an indictment against Louisville police officers for killing Breonna Taylor represents a “failing” system. She also attended an anti-racist social justice rally in New Haven this June.

“Let’s take the action that’s needed and is necessary in order to create equality and health and racial justice,” DeLauro said at the rally.

DeLauro has voiced her opposition to defunding the police and, in an interview with the News, expressed her strong support and respect for law enforcement. Still, Krupinsky said that unlike Streicker, DeLauro has never reached out to the Connecticut Fraternal Order of Police.

At an Oct. 24 Town Hall with the Wesleyan University Democrats, DeLauro told students that some communities in New Haven want a strong police presence. For example, in a press conference outside of Congregation Chabad Lubavitch last Wednesday, members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Beaver Hills and Republican State Sen. Len Fosano called for increasing the number of police officers in the community.

“I believe that we ought to be investing in our communities and that we ought to be investing in public safety,” DeLauro told the News. “I condemn violence on anyone and I support legislation that would ban the chokehold, racial profiling. But I am opposed to attacks on police officers. I think that that’s unacceptable.”

Not everyone is convinced that DeLauro’s stated pro-Black Lives Matter stance demonstrates enough commitment to policies that will truly protect communities of color, which commonly experience deadly interactions with law enforcement.

Hamden City Councilman Justin Farmer said that the binary representation of Republicans as pro-police and Democrats as anti-police is not accurate. Farmer referred to Democratic policies that have expanded police funding and responsibilities, such as Bill Clinton’s 1993 crime bill. He said that while DeLauro has recently supported important initiatives like the Justice In Policing Act, more action is needed.

Farmer said he opposes Republican rule in office, and that the GOP is running on a radically partisan agenda that would put minority communities at risk of greater police violence.

“If Streicker is to win, she won’t be focusing on [Black and brown communities],” Farmer said. “She would be focusing on the suburbs which have this fear that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization, and that our cities are out of control, and that people are poor just because they are lazy.”

After Nov. 3

Daniel HoSang, associate professor of Ethnicity, Race and Migration, told the News that this race will likely not dramatically change the size and scope of law enforcement in Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District. He said that while DeLauro will likely urge the Department of Justice and the federal government to encourage reform at the local level, most law enforcement policies are determined by local jurisdictions.

“In this case, the issue of police accountability and funding in the DeLauro and Streicker race is more of a symbolic debate for the way that voters will see them as connected to their political concerns rather than a question of shifting policy,” HoSang said.

Matthew Denney GRD ’22, whose research focuses on race and criminal justice, similarly stressed the symbolism of the congressional race. He said that the candidates reflect how 2020 has forced people to take sides — either with the Black Lives Matter movement or with law enforcement.

Denney added that while DeLauro and Streicker would not be making decisions that directly impact law enforcement in New Haven, the candidates’ messages may evoke visceral feelings from constituents that stem from national conversations.

“In some ways, this race is bearing some of the weight of the debate around the [Connecticut] Police Accountability Bill,” Denney said. “Even though DeLauro wasn’t involved in crafting that legislation in the way that the state legislature was, in a rhetorical sense, the race connects the national conversation to the local conversation and debate.”

But recent polling conducted by the Benson Strategy Group finds that most New Haveners do support reallocating money from the police into areas of education, health and jobs.

According to the poll, which was conducted from Sept. 18 to Oct. 5, 63 percent of residents support reinvesting $33 million from the city’s $43 million police budget in public education and community-based violence prevention programs.

Polls in Connecticut will remain open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Talat Aman | talat.aman@yale.edu