Lawmakers in Bridgeport, Connecticut have proposed new legislation in response to the deaths of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls, two Black women who were mysteriously found dead in the city on the same day. Families of both women complained that local law enforcement failed to notify them about their loved one’s death.
Now, lawmakers have proposed House Bill 5349, which would require police officers who discover “a deceased person or the remains of a person” to make sure that person’s next of kin are notified about their death within 24 hours of their identification.
Officers who fail to do so, the law states, would need to “document the reason for the failure or delay of notification.” If the bill becomes law, cops who violate it would also face harsh penalties.
“I wish a bill like this wasn’t necessary,” Democratic Rep. Steve Stafstrom, who wrote the bill after meeting with Smith-Fields’ family, added. “Frankly, the Bridgeport Police Department could have and should have done a little better outreach from the get-go and this should be standard procedure by a police department. Clearly, there was a gap and that’s why we thought the legislation was necessary to make the expectation abundantly clear.”
As reported by REVOLT, 23-year-old Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment on Dec. 12 after going on a first date with a 37-year-old white man she met on Bumble. Her death was ruled an accidental overdose, but her family claims police failed to pursue her date as a potential suspect.
That same day, Rawls was also found dead at a man’s house by Bridgeport police. Together, the women’s families called on the Justice Department to open an investigation into their loved ones’ deaths and the police department.