Inspector General discusses criminal law
Jaylen Carr – Sports Editor
Connecticut’s first Inspector General, Robert Devlin Jr., came to the university to talk to the sociology and criminology club members and students interested in criminal law.
“It was a pleasure to be back at Southern,” Devlin, a university alum, said. “They made me work here.”
Devlin said he served as a judge for 27 years in Connecticut and was then elevated to the Appellate Court. Devlin’s four-year term was approved by a 5-0 vote of the Criminal Justice Commission at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Sept. 27, 2021, according to the Connecticut governmental website.
The discussion and questions with Devlin and criminology and sociology students were held in Davis Hall on April 13 to help students understand how the law works in Connecticut.
“In the summer of 2020, the Connecticut General Assembly met in a special session,” Devlin said. “They passed a bill called the Police Accountability Act.”
This bill requires police officers to wear body cameras and changes the use of excessive force, Devlin said.
“They also created an office of Inspector General to look into these cases,” Devlin said. “Our duty is to examine certain events where police officers use force; someone dies or deadly force.”
Devlin said police officers could not be bystanders when they see a fellow officer using excessive force.
“Our duties also include making recommendations to POST-C, Police Officer Standards, and Training Council,” Devlin said. “What we’ve done so far is made some recommended changes in the practices and policies that some these ordinances have.”
When reviewing the actions of a police officer, Devlin said he looked to see if the police officer tried to calm the situation. In Devlin’s presentation, he showed videos of incidents where police officers used excessive force.
After each video, Devlin would say if the police officer’s actions were excessive or deemed as the police offer following the protocol. Devlin ruled on the side of the police officers in both examples he showed. He also opened the lecture to discussion to hear the students’ perspectives to see how they would rule in these situations.
“Judge Devlin reached out to us. He has this new position, and he has been going around to the area schools,” Jessica Kenty-Drane, chairperson of the sociology department, said. “He knew we had students interested in criminology and criminal justice.”
Drane said Devlin thought students would be interested in what his agency does and what is happening in Connecticut.
“I think students who really want to go into the criminal justice field and law and enforcement in particular, seeing and hearing what it involves is really important to them,” Dane said. “We have a lot of students who are interested in alternatives to law enforcement and alternatives to using force, so I think bringing someone here that is trained in investigating those kinds of things and asking hard questions of that person is a great opportunity for our students.”
Venezia Michalsen, a sociology professor, and criminology specialist, said because Devlin is an alum of the university, he reached out wanting to help students.
“It is important for students to see what being a Southern alum can bring to them; he is high up and has an important job,” Michalsen said. “It is important for Southern students to reach for the sky.”
Brittany Medianger, the Sociology and Criminology Club co-president, said that Devlin reached out to Drane to set up the event.
“He wanted to inform everyone about what’s going on behind the scenes and what he’s doing in Connect because not a lot of people don’t know about it,” Medianger said.
It is important for students to know that there are police forces that are trying to help the community, Medianger said. “You do see a lot of that negativity of police in the news, so it’s really important to remember there are good guys out there trying to fight for us.”
Medianger said she learned a lot from the videos the Devlin showed during the event and hopes they will open it up to everyone on campus the next time they have an event like this.
Drane brought her sociology class to the discussion, hoping they would learn about policing in America.
“The most important thing is the ways in which our policing system in America is not equipped to deal with our mental health challenges,” Drane said.