Gov. Lamont signs sweeping police accountability bill; groups target further reforms
Gov. Ned Lamont signed a sweeping new police accountability law Friday after weeks of protests demanding reform.
An independent "inspector general" will now investigate cases of excessive force, chokeholds are banned and fired officers can now be de-certified, so they can't move to another police department.
Hundreds of police officers protested the law because citizens can now sue them and collect damages for major civil rights violations.
Now, some groups are already crafting a new round of reforms, saying this law is a good first step, but more needs to be done.
"The Legislature did a really good job with this important step forward, but it can't be the end of the conversation," said Kelly Moore, with ACLU Connecticut.
The next step for the group is traffic stops. They can turn deadly for drivers as well as officers.
"So that there are fewer traffic stops for things like a tail light or lack of signal when people change lanes, equipment problems," Moore said.
A new state task force is looking at the issue.
"Why are we chasing stolen cars that are already insured by Geico and Progressive? Police are not insurance recovery police," said retired New Haven Police Sgt. Shafiq Abdussabur.
They're also looking at banning no-knock warrants -- where police enter a home without knocking. A no-knock warrant led to the death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.
They are also studying whether social workers should be sent with officers when responding to high stakes calls. Waterbury has been doing it for a decade.
"They de-escalate, they are trained to do so," said Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary. "Suicidal parties, people who have a long history of mental illness -- these individuals respond with the police."
Police protested parts of the current law and a push for even deeper changes is an uphill battle.
"If the Connecticut General Assembly is committed to ending police violence, it has to do more in upcoming sessions," said Moore.
Several police chiefs are part of that new task force and they want to hear from the public. Their first listening session is on Aug. 19 in New Haven.
News 12 reported this week about what is included in the sweeping police reform bill that the governor signed. Some changes will happen right away while others 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.