Gov. Lamont says he may sign sweeping police reform bill as early as Thursday
After more than nine hours of debate, lawmakers in the state Senate passed a sweeping police reform bill that Gov. Ned Lamont says he intends to sign.
Lamont, who called it a “good bill,” says he may sign the massive police accountability law on Thursday.
Only one Democrat opposed the bill in the early morning 21-15 vote.
The bill was drafted in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota. Lamont called for a special session so lawmakers could take up the bill, as well as three other bills that also passed.
Some changes will happen right away while other will take longer.
- Easier to professionally decertify cops for excessive force or racial profiling
- Towns can create Civilian Review Boards with subpoena power
- State Department of Criminal Justice begins creating new, independent Inspector General office to prosecute excessive force claims
- Mandatory behavioral health assessments for officers every five years
- "Duty to Intervene" law begins, which requires an officer to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied
- Ban on chokeholds begins, except in life-or-death situations
- Officers’ “Qualified Immunity” is reduced. This is the most controversial change. Citizens will be able sue individual police officers. But the officer only pays legal bills if they're guilty of an egregious violation.
- All officers must have body cameras and dashboard cameras in their patrol cars. The extra time gives police departments time to purchase the equipment.
Critics worry innocent officers will get caught in the middle.
"You're going to sue any officer who's involved in the case, either as a bystander, as an actor standing across the street. Every one of them is going to get sued,” said state Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven).
Sgt. Kris Engstrand, the head of Stamford’s police union, is predicting a wave of retirements across the force.
“As soon as this law started coming out, I started receiving text messages, phone calls from some of our officers going, 'I guess it’s time to leave,'" says Engstrand.
Some parts of this bill are likely to be changed in January when lawmakers head back to Hartford.