After hours of debate, the Connecticut General Assembly house of representatives this morning passed LCO #3700, “An Act Concerning Police Accountability.” The version passed by the house is slightly different than the original bill, which was introduced under a different LCO number (3741). The bill now heads to the Senate, which is expected to vote on Tuesday.
The votes taken by the house last night and this morning showed the growing strength of a movement of Black and Latinx leadership in the Connecticut General Assembly’s house of representatives. Black and Latinx legislators refused to accept the usual political approach dictated by policing’s political machine. When the bill’s original language was changed, Black and Puerto Rican caucus members took the fight out from behind closed doors and into the public. Because of their leadership, for the first time in years, Connecticut’s house of representatives had real votes showing where legislators stand on ending systemic racism and violence in policing.
The legislators who successfully stopped the removal of incremental qualified immunity improvements showed people who care about Black and Latinx lives which representatives are willing to begin the process of ending qualified immunity for police and which are not. That public record is vital for the movement to end qualified immunity for good, and for the broader effort to divest from policing.
The following is our analysis of some key sections of the version of the bill passed by the house of representatives this morning, July 24.
Stop & Frisk
The bill retains the original language banning stop and frisk in Connecticut. Stop and frisk is unconstitutional. It feeds on and perpetuates systemic racism in policing, and it is a problem in Connecticut. In 2018, Bridgeport officials were actively calling for police to use it. The bill’s ban on stop and frisk represents a significant step forward.
Open Records & FOI
The version passed by the house takes important steps by ensuring police union contracts cannot supersede open records laws. It also expands and centralizes statewide collection of police use of force information.
Use of Force Standard
A “use of force standard” is the standard under which prosecutors must decide whether to press charges against police who hurt or kill people. The bill’s section regarding the use of force standard is an improvement over the original bill. The section still does not go far enough to require prosecutors to hold police accountable if they hurt or kill someone, but would be an improvement over the standard currently in Connecticut law, and the version passed by the house is better than the one introduced in the bill originally.
Decertification of Police
The section regarding decertification of police seems to be unchanged from the original version. This section relies on police policing themselves – POSTC, which already has decertification powers that it rarely, if ever, uses, is a majority police agency.
The bill retains the creation of an office of the inspector general, which would create a prosecutorial office to investigate and prosecute police who harm and kill Connecticut residents. Critically, the version of the bill passed by the house improves original bill language by giving the Criminal Justice Commission, not the Chief State’s Attorney, hiring and firing power over the inspector general position, adding a step toward true independence for the position.
The bill is a small step forward for Connecticut’s governmental immunity standard because the current state standard is so egregiously bad. The bill language passed by the house will allow police to use immunity if they had “objectively good faith belief” they didn’t break the law. If enacted into law, many people whose rights have been violated by police will still not be able to obtain redress through the courts due to governmental immunity, which means the Connecticut legislature must do more in future sessions to ensure every person or family harmed by police is able to have their day in court.
Every elected official, at every level of government, has a responsibility to value the lives and safety of Connecticut residents over the systemic violence and racism of policing. The bill contains provisions that do not fully realize its intent of reshaping policing, and it includes some provisions that would create meaningful progress. The state of the law on policing is abysmal, and this bill includes some important pieces to begin changing the status quo. As the Senate considers its vote next week, we remind all legislators that whether they do the right thing by passing this bill or not, they must commit to taking meaningful action to end systemic violence and racism in policing beyond this moment.