The Charger Blog

Students Testify Before Connecticut’s Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force

Several University of New Haven students shared their experiences, insights, and concerns with the State of Connecticut’s Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force, which will use their testimony when making recommendations to state legislators.

December 8, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of the zoom call from the ptatf testimony.
Several University of New Haven students shared their testimony.

Jennifer Vozzo ’21 believes ensuring that all people’s voices are heard is critical to enhancing the criminal justice system. As the cousin of a member of the New York Police Department and as a behavioral therapist who works with children who can’t always articulate their concerns, she felt it was especially important to take advantage of a recent opportunity to share her own perspective.

That’s why when she first learned that the University of New Haven and the State of Connecticut’s Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force (PTATF) would be hosting a listening session for young adults, she was immediately interested. She wanted to hear what her peers had to say, and she wanted to share her own testimony. Working with several faculty members who were participating in the event, she reviewed police accountability legislation and prepared her remarks.

“I wanted to be involved with this personally because I realized this will affect my future and I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions,” said Vozzo, a criminal justice major. “I wanted to emphasize that I was in agreement with the section of the police accountability bill that highlights establishing a committee of citizens from the community. This would allow all individuals to be heard and allow them to voice any concerns or questions they may have regarding this new bill and any future legislature that is passed.”

Image of Danielle Cooper, Ph.D.
Danielle Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice and director of research for the Tow Youth Justice Institute.
‘Use their voices for the betterment of society’

Vozzo was one several students, including members of the University’s Forensic Science Club and NAACP chapter, who shared written or spoken testimony during the listening session, which was held via Zoom. It was one of four sessions that PTATF held last month, in addition to sessions earlier in the fall, to help ensure that its recommendations represent all voices in the state. The task force makes recommendations to the Connecticut General Assembly and to Governor Ned Lamont.

The University held two workshops for students to develop or practice their testimony. They received support throughout the process from several faculty members, including Danielle Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice and director of research for the University’s Tow Youth Justice Institute.

“Through this event I hope we can continue to encourage our students to use their voices for the betterment of society,” she said. “Each of them must challenge themselves to consider what role they will have in social action and in maximizing opportunities for justice. I hope students have learned that their voices matter beyond Election Day and that they matter on important policies and legislations still being decided at the local and state levels.”

Paul Klee, a candidate in the University’s doctorate program in criminal justice who was also among the speakers, was eager to share his thoughts on police transparency and accountability. His goal was to express solidarity for good police officers and support for those who have experienced unwarranted force or police misconduct.

Advocating for cooperation and better police/community relations, Klee believes the work of building a stronger relationship between the police and the community must be guided by evidence-based practices and research. He was glad for the opportunity to speak and for the feedback he received.

“As an academic, I find that it is easy to compartmentalize and covet ideas and research,” said Klee, a Tow Youth Justice Institute doctoral research fellow. “The opportunity to testify gave me a great sense of relief and solace. I was able to speak my mind and share some of my research interests and thoughts. Participating in the listening session gave me hope that my words will be transformed into action.”