Waterbury police have largely stopped using police vans to transport prisoners in response to a man becoming paralyzed in a New Haven police van incident last month.
Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo and Mayor Neil O'Leary directed that the city's two police vans be used only for bringing prisoners to and from court until seat belts are installed and officers are trained how to use them, the Republican-American newspaper reported Sunday.
The directive took effect July 1, and the seat belt installation and training are expected to be completed by the end of the summer, Lt. Ryan Bessette, a police spokesman, said Monday. The vans had been used every day around the clock to transport most prisoners from arrest locations to the police station, to avoid taking cruisers off the streets for long periods.
"We want to make sure the arrestees are safe during transport," Spagnolo told the newspaper.
O'Leary, a former city police chief who became mayor in 2011, said he has never heard of anyone being injured in a police van in Waterbury.
In New Haven, Richard "Randy" Cox was seriously injured in the back of a police van with no seat belts June 19 when, police say, the officer driving the vehicle braked suddenly to avoid an accident. Cox, who was handcuffed, flew headfirst into the metal divider between the driver's cab and the back and became paralyzed.
Cox's family and the state NAACP are calling for federal civil rights charges against New Haven police. After the van incident, Cox, who is Black, was driven to the police station, where officers pulled him out of the van by his feet and dragged him to a cell, despite him telling officers he was injured and couldn't move. He was eventually taken to a hospital.
Five officers were placed on leave pending an investigation, and city police announced reforms including having seat belts in all vans.