Connecticut legislators proposing stiffer penalties for assaulting first responders

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HARTFORD -- A pair of Connecticut lawmakers have introduced legislation that would create harsher penalties for assaulting first responders.

State Rep. J.P. Sredzinski of Monroe has proposed a bill that would increase penalties for assaulting on-duty police officers, firefighters or EMTs.

"There should be minimum penalties," said Sredzinski.

Assaulting a police officer is already a felony in Connecticut, punishable by one to 10 years in prison. Threatening an officer carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

"If someone goes out and says, 'I'm going to go out and assault an officer today simply because that's what I want to do,' that's premeditated," said Sredzinski. "That's something that has to carry stiffer mandatory penalties, other than, 'I was in a bar fight and accidentally hit an officer.'"

Sredzinski is also backing legislation proposed by State Rep. William of Stamford, which would increase the penalties for assaulting off-duty officers and correctional officers and for threatening state judges.

Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran supports both pieces of legislation. "It's a good thing for officers to see, to think that maybe somebody does have my back here," said Cetran.

Cetran said officers are also at risk off duty because they may be targeted by someone they previously arrested, or may have to jump into action if they see a crime occurring off the clock. "That's something that sits in the back of every police officers' mind," said Cetran.

Since the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and subsequent clashes with police, Cetran said there has been a general changed attitude toward police.

"I think there's some pervasive attitude change that has occurred that caused people to question police officers and authority more than they ever have before," said Cetran.

Cetran believes the legislation is a good sign, and a good way to show that legislatures support first responders.

Both pieces of legislation will receive public hearings in the next several weeks.