Police accountability bill clears major hurdle in state House
Protesters hit the streets of Connecticut for weeks after the death of George Floyd, demanding tougher police accountability laws – they are now a big step closer to achieving their goal.
State House representatives passed a sweeping police reform package, where the debate was raw and personal.
Items included in the bill include police shootings being probed by an independent investigator, not prosecutors – and chokeholds being mostly banned.
More items in the bill:
- Requires every officer in CT to wear a body camera
- Makes it easier to de-certify a rogue officer
- Limits when deadly force can be used
- Requires a mental health evaluation every 5 years
The most controversial section of the bill strips officers of their personal immunity from lawsuits. If that were to happen, the city or town the officer works for would be required to defend the officer in court. If a judge finds the officer guilty of egregious conduct, then the officer is on the hook for legal fees and damages.
"No officer is personally liable under this language unless what you did -- your action was malicious…and reckless,” says state Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford).
However, state Rep. Themis Klarides, a Republican from Derby, says it’s a slippery slope.
"Once qualified immunity starts to get nicked away at, which this starts, there should be no cop that feels safe going on the road and going to work, without having his own insurance,” she says.
Asked to react to the bill’s passing in the House, Gov. Ned Lamont said, "Let's see how this thing settles out first."
Black lawmakers say Floyd's death was a turning point.
"I'm not angry anymore. I'm actually relieved, because people are going to see who is all talk and who's action,” says state Rep. Anthony Nolan (D-New London).
The immunity clause wouldn't kick in until next summer, so there's plenty of time to tweak it. A final vote in the state Senate is set for Tuesday.