Herron Keyon Gaston

State Senator

Herron Keyon Gaston

Deputy Majority Leader

Empowering Communities, Driving Change

May 3, 2024

Senator Gaston Leads Passage of Legislation to Boost Police Officer Recruitment and Retention

Senator Herron Keyon Gaston, co-chair of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee, led passage Friday of a bill to explore policies encouraging the recruitment and retention of police officers and law enforcement officials at agencies across Connecticut.

The proposal, Senate Bill 421, passed the chamber on a unanimous afternoon vote and now heads to the House for consideration ahead of the legislative session’s May 8 adjournment date.

The bill includes a wide range of provisions intended to determine the most effective policies to strengthen police officer recruitment in Connecticut and encourage current officers to stay on the job.

Senator Gaston said the legislation was the first step in a considered approach to ensuring the needs of Connecticut’s law enforcement professionals are met and their departments are well-staffed.

“As the chair of the Public Safety Committee, I understand all too well that our law enforcement officers protect our communities, protect our state and we must work to support their efforts,” Senator Gaston said. “We have to be meticulous, methodical and deliberate in how we do this. I’m proud of the fact that I have put public safety front and center and I value the hard work of the men and women who wear that uniform each and every day.”

Senate Bill 421 tasks the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and the Police Officer Standards and Training Council with studying the efficacy of issuing bonuses to prospective and current police officers and reporting their findings back to the legislature.

The bill askes DESPP to develop and implement a plan to promote the law enforcement profession in an effort to attract more candidates to the job.

Other provisions require DESPP to explore the development of mental health programs to meet the needs of police officers, instructs POST to examine the criminal justice courses available at higher education institutions across Connecticut and create a pilot program at the University of New Haven, which will allow students who attend a basic training academy to complete that training though a combination of college and academy courses.

The proposal also requires state higher education officials and POST to collaborate on a report that includes a list of credits and career pathways to help officers earn higher education degrees.

The bill ensures that lawful permanent residents who are not U.S. citizens are permitted to serve as police officers by prohibiting POST from denying their certification solely on the basis of their citizenship status.

During a debate Friday, Senator Gaston stressed that the immigrants who have received permanent resident status had been vetted by the federal government and would receive a thorough background check before being hired as police officers.

“I am the son of an immigrant who came to this country, who became a permanent resident and later became a citizen of the United States,” Senator Gaston said. “So I would like to believe that folks who are on that journey, if they already have permanent resident status, those individuals are trying to break into what we consider the American Dream.”

Contact: Hugh McQuaid | Hugh.McQuaid@cga.ct.gov | 860-634-4651