David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, had the following reaction:
“Information is power, and this transparency bill is a necessary first step toward placing power over police squarely where it belongs: with the people. No one should die or be harmed at the hands of police, and police should not be able to hide the number of times they hurt, kill, or threaten people. Transparency about police uses of force will not bring back people killed by police violence, but it is a critical tool for exposing police violence and enabling Connecticut to take democratic control over police. Too often, it has taken public pressure and legal action for police to release body or dashboard camera footage they do not like. By requiring police to release body and dashboard camera footage within 96 hours of police hurting someone, with privacy protections for bystanders and victims of police violence, this law takes a critical step toward making police body cameras tools to serve the public instead of police PR goals. The ACLU of Connecticut will be watching closely to ensure this bill, should it be signed into law, is implemented correctly. This is an important step forward for police transparency, and we will continue to fight for comprehensive police accountability and an end to police violence and injustice.”
The ACLU of Connecticut recently represented Shawn Dowdell in a legal case seeking footage and information regarding the death of Dowdell’s son, Zoe, at the hands of New Britain police. For more than one year, New Britain and Connecticut State Police refused to release footage and information to Dowdell regarding his son’s death. Under this bill, that footage would have been released within 96 hours.
Senate Bill 380, as passed by the General Assembly, would:
• Require police to publicly release body camera and dashboard camera recordings, upon request from a member of the public, within 96 hours after a police employee uses force against a person or if the police employee is under disciplinary investigation for the recorded incident. Existing state law would protect the privacy of bystanders recorded in this footage.
• Require all Connecticut police departments to submit annual use of force reports, including the underlying incident reports for every time police use force against someone, to the state Office of Policy and Management.
• Expand the state’s definition of a police “use of force” to include police motor vehicle chases and police use of chokeholds.
• Require the Division of Criminal Justice, the agency that includes Connecticut’s state prosecutors, to give a preliminary report to the legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committees five days after the cause of death determination.
• Require the Division of Criminal Justice to investigate every use of deadly force by a police employee.
• Update police pursuit laws by prohibiting police from shooting into or at, or standing in front of, a fleeing vehicle in most instances and requiring police who are entering another police agency’s jurisdiction to notify that local police department.
• Create a task force, the membership of which would include a person directly impacted by the justice system and a person with a disability, to study Connecticut’s laws governing police uses of force.