House Votes For Special Police Powers For Secret Service Agents By 90 To 52

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After sharp debate, the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to give Secret Service agents the same police powers as local Connecticut officers for certain crimes.

The agents would be able to obtain arrest and search warrants in the same way as local police for financial crimes, including identity theft, money laundering, computer crimes, forgery, illegal use of a credit card, larceny, and issuing a bad check, among others.

The bill passed by 90 to 52 as some Democrats joined with most Republicans in opposing the measure. The Democrats who voted against the bill included state Representatives Patricia Dillon of New Haven, Linda Schofield of Simsbury, Peter Tercyak of New Britain, and Terry Backer of Stratford.

Republicans had the fundamental question of why the bill was needed at all. Rep. Sean Williams, a Watertown Republican, wanted to know why the legislature was considering the bill.

“What is the problem that we are fixing here?’’ Williams asked.

Rep.  Ed Jutila of Niantic, the measure\’s chief proponent, responded that the Secret Service needs “the maximum ability’’ to coordinate their efforts with local law enforcement officials.

“If they happen across something that appears to be a crime under Connecticut law, they can take immediate action – and that’s what this is about,\’\’ Jutila said.

The incident that provoked the bill was a violent crime at a Big Y supermarket in New Milford on Memorial Day 2009. An off-duty Secret Service agent fired a warning shot after chasing a 36-year-old man who had cut an employee’s hand with a box cutter, according to police. The arrested man, identified by police as Ian Sprague, was charged with stealing the purse of a customer inside the supermarket. An employee who tried to help the customer was cut during the incident before Sprague fled from the store.

The off-duty Secret Service agent then chased Sprague, caught up to him outside the store, pulled out his gun, and ordered him to drop the weapon, according to police. After the agent fired the warning shot into the ground, Sprague gave up the box-cutter. He was not immediately arrested by the Secret Service agent but was charged by the local police.

Republicans said they were concerned that the state of Connecticut would be liable if any Secret Service agent made a mistake and subsequently made a false arrest.

“We cannot just assume that everything is going to be OK because they are highly skilled and highly trained,\’\’ Williams said. \”We don’t know the reason why we are doing this bill. We don’t know what problem we are solving. … Let’s face it, folks. People make mistakes in this world.’’

House Republican leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk agreed, saying, “I guess I just don’t get it. … I don’t see why it would be necessary.’’

Overall, 10 states currently give “full peace officer powers to federal law enforcement officials,\’\’ Jutila said.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

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8 thoughts on “House Votes For Special Police Powers For Secret Service Agents By 90 To 52

  1. Imaginary Reality

    The agents would be able to obtain arrest and search warrants in the same way as local police for financial crimes, including identity theft, money laundering, computer crimes, forgery, illegal use of a credit card, larceny, and issuing a bad check, among others.

    Is this a good fit for such people as attended the Mexico Party ?

  2. Citizen of CT

    Does the state CT charter give authority to vote on such a measure. I would like to have this debated further; not pushed down our throats, bring this forth as a voter’s referendum to the Citizens of CT let them decide whats best for CT. This is ridiculous, Secret Service are now in the news for being out of control, lack of morals, bad behavior, poor judgement. Their reason for being is protect the President, in his travels and to keep him safe. Off duty, the must follow the laws of the state and are average citizens. CT does not allow for openly carrying and shooting a gun at another citizen. Where is our own police? Are CT’s police considered so in ept they now need extra’babysitters’? Something is a miss here in CT, now we see more federal policing than every before. Is this Russia? What is going on in the Legislature when a poorly formed and stated bill gets passed in the House? I hope the Senate will supercede and vote this down. We havemore than adequate Troopers, Police agents here on top of FBI..what is the crux of this really? Senators do your jobs! Stop the fed gov’t from over-taking CT police jobs. The Unions best stand up on this one. CT is a small state we have plenty of protection don’t need more federal government intruding.
    Time to vote against wild ideas, and bring back common sense.

  3. jim

    bring us closer and closer to having the secret police force we have always dreamed of…. WELCOME TO SOCIALISM.
    STATE RIGHTS SHOULD NEVER BE COMPRISED.

  4. guest

    This is a foolish bill and Jutila is a fanatic leading the democrats, and I am a democrat.

    Interestingly, the incident she described repeatedly to illustrate the need for this bill is of an SS agent firing a warning shot re a purse snatcher. TOTALLY not allowed. No police officers are allowed to do this and officers have gotten in trouble for it in the past.

    It is not an obscure policy either — it is fundamental. every cop here and in other states knows this.

    it shows how terribly ignorant our legislature is.

    Jutila says the idea was brought to her by an SS agent. OK, how about getting your ideas from your constituents, instead of representatives of the federal government who apparently don’t have enough counterfeiters to chase?

    They are like sharks — they need to keep moving in order to breath and want more powers so they have something to do. Hardly serves the public interest.

    The smart ones this time are the Republicans, who repeatedly and rightly ask: why this bill?

    Lets hope this dies in the Senate

  5. Karen

    Our state legislature seems to be doing what the Wisconsin GOP did when they got the majority–quickly ramming through bad legislation that the voters hate while the opposition party stands by, helpless. I am a big social liberal and a teacher and I’ll be voting Republican if there is an even marginally viable candidate running. Thank the Lord we don’t have the Bible thumpers or overt women-haters here. Yet. Even at that, the GOP seems to grabbing at half our freedom while the Democrats go for the rest.

  6. Judith de Graffenried

    bible-thumping?…Karen, you need to get past the stereotypes. The politicians want us divided.

  7. sam smith

    I think some are missing the point…Without this bill, the agent only had citizen arrest powers. This means UNLESS a felony happened in her/his PRESENCE, he could not LEGALLY do anything. That officer, who only witnessed the after effect of the crime (the injured store worker) opened her/him self up to great liability! Where as with the bill, he/she could use his/her training, make the arrest and not get sued if she/he had stopped the wrong guy… Don’t ya think COPS of any department should have police powers?

  8. sam smith

    …or would you have preferred the agent just (using only citizen arrest powers) seeing what they did, just walk away? they could have and I think a great many of you would be outraged…as would I.

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