Police Officers Urge Passage of Mental Health Legislation

With two days left to go before the state legislature adjourns for the 2018 session, local police officers and their bargaining representatives, along with a prominent chief elected official, are calling for action on a proposed bill that would provide mental health treatment, including suicide prevention, for those impacted by on-the-job trauma.

Key components of the bill
SB No. 278 An Act concerning Mental Health Wellness Training and Suicide Prevention for Police Officers – would do the following:

  • Protect employment so that no police officer can be terminated or disciplined for seeking mental health treatment.
  • Allow officers to get back their firearm if a licensed mental health professional signs off.
  • Create a data base on police officer suicides.
  • Create a list of licensed mental health care providers, psychiatrists or psychologists with law enforcement expertise.

“Passing SB 278 is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do,” said Lt. David O’Connor, a Norwalk Police Officer and President of Local 1727 of Council 4 AFSCME. “There are times when working in law enforcement is like being in a war zone. Police officers are exposed to traumatic events throughout their careers that would make anyone cringe in horror.”

Last December, Bridgeport Police Officer Thomas Lattanzio took his life, a tragedy that a fellow officer, Lt. Ronald Mercado, said is more prevalent than people realize.

“Tommy was a close friend of mine,” said Mercado, an Executive Board member of Local 1159 of Council 4 AFSCME, representing Bridgeport police. “His death still pains us as a department. That’s why we want legislators to pass this bill. The goal for officers should be to get help – not just when it’s needed, but also before it’s needed.”

Sgt. Kris Engstrand
who is President of the Stamford Police Association, said the job of police officers has changed dramatically due to events like 9/11 and the Sandy Hook massacre.

“Our responsibilities are much bigger than responding to traffic violations or drugs. We’re being asked to serve as homeland security. We’re on the front line within our own borders,” Engstrand said. “We run into gunfire, into hostage situations and other mayhem. Supporting this bill will send a powerful message that we won't be abandoned when the immediate crisis is over.”

Mayor Harry Rilling also urged passage of SB 278.

“As mayor of Norwalk and as a longtime police chief and officer, I know that this bill is an important safeguard for our men and women in blue," Rilling said. "[It] will encourage police officers to get the mental health treatment that they may need. The alternative is to let officers suffer and worry that seeking help may cost them their jobs.”

Click here to read Mayor Rilling's letter to state lawmakers and Gov. Malloy.


Media Contact: Larry Dorman, [email protected]