The families of Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, and Brenda Lee Rawls, 53, who died on the same day, are demanding a policy requiring Connecticut police to notify families of a death within 24 hours of identification, reported NBC News. The families were initially skeptical about the handling of the investigations into the two women’s deaths and called for the cases to be reopened by the state.
Both families said they were not notified by Bridgeport Police Department that their loved ones had been deceased. In Rawls’ case, the family learned of her death after calling the medical examiner’s office after calls to the police offered no information. In Smith-Field’s case, Lauren’s landlord had directed the family to the police days following her death.
From NBC News:
“When it comes to Black and brown people, you need to treat us like we’re human,” Shantell Fields, Smith-Fields’ mother, told the online hearing. “I just need for everyone to be treated as a human being, and be notified of their family’s loss and to be treated with respect and kindness, which the Bridgeport department did not allow us.”
“The way that my daughter’s death was handled was simply an atrocity,” Everett Smith, Smith-Fields’ father said, calling the bill “common sense.”
“We didn’t even get a phone call,” he added. “We had to search and dig and find from a fourth party.” That fourth party was Smith-Fields’ landlord, who left a note on her apartment door for the family to call him.
State Rep. Steven Stafstrom wrote the bill and noted how incredible it is that two families had experienced the same issues with the police within days each other, reported NBC. Officers who violate the bill, if signed into law, will be reported to the Office of the Inspector General and may face suspension.
So far, the detectives who handled Smith-Field’s case were suspended following backlash from the family and the public for doing a poor investigation, reported NBC. The police on Rawls’ case have not been reprimanded but the family has demanded the state to reopen the investigation.