Cathy Osten


Cathy Osten



April 13, 2022

Sen. Osten Leads Passage of Two Police-Related Bills in State Senate

HARTFORD – State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) used her position as senate Chair of the Public Safety Committee to help pass two bills in the state Senate today that apply to police: expanding the reach of the hate crimes unit within the State Police, and allowing police officers to wear a religious head covering as a part of their uniform.

Both bills passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan and unanimous – or nearly unanimous – basis. The bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 217 establishes a hate crimes investigative unit within the State Police and requires that unit to “prevent and detect” crimes based on bigotry or bias against a race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. The bill also broadens reporting by local police of bigotry- or bias-motivated crimes.

The bill was supported at its February 25 public hearing with testimony from the State Police commissioner, the state Division of Criminal Justice, and by Police Chief Keith Mello, who is the Chairman of the Police Officers Standards and Training Council.

The FBI recently reported that there were 7,700 hates crimes committed in America in 2020 – the highest number since 2008. Hate crimes targeting people because of their race made up 62 % of all incidents.

“Connecticut currently doesn’t have in place a uniform system of investigating hate crimes, nor any real-time, consistent sharing of information of hate crime investigations among law enforcement in the state,” Sen. Osten said. “This bill will ensure that we are providing our law enforcement with the resources and tools necessary to properly monitor, investigate and communicate with hates crimes investigations. By passing this legislation, we are helping out law enforcement better protect the residents of this state.”

Senate Bill 133 requires each law enforcement unit in Connecticut to adopt or amend its policy by October 1 to allow police officers to wear religious head coverings that correspond to their religious beliefs while on duty, except where the unit requires its officers to use tight-fitting protective headgear.

“I’ve heard from members of the Sikh community locally – and I know this is an issue for them nationally and internationally as well – that the headdress is a part of their faith, and it should not be a limiting factor in any employment, including police work. I think the same can be said of some other religions as well,” Sen. Osten said. “Fortunately, police and military commanders agree. As a matter of fact, West Point just had its first Sikh graduate in 2020. So obviously this is already working at the highest levels of self-defense in our nation. It can work in local police departments as well.”

The bill was also supported by Norwich City Council member Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, who spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of Sikh Community members at the Public Safety Committee’s February 18 public hearing.

“As you know, the Sikh Turban known as ‘dastaar’ is an integral part of the Sikh faith that signifies a commitment to uphold dignity, freedom, social justice, and equality for all. Even though after 9/11 Sikhs have been victims of many hate crimes because of ignorance and lack of understanding about Sikhism and its articles of faith most prominently Sikh turban ‘dastaar’ but despite many stereotypes, Sikhs have upheld their commitment towards their faith and society,” Singh Khalsa said. “This bill will not just help us break those barriers in society created by ignorance but will help our police departments to hire people from various faith backgrounds that represent our state’s diverse population.”