Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

July 29, 2020

Senate Democrats Proudly Lead Passage of Bill Increasing Police Accountability Statewide

Today, the Senate Democratic Caucus proudly led the introduction and passage of legislation that will increase accountability for police officers statewide. In recent years, Senate Democrats have championed the passing of similar legislation, and these latest changes come as they heard the cries of protestors nationwide as a movement erupted in May 2020 in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among so many others, by police and law enforcement.

“Since June, we’ve seen residents across Connecticut raise their voices in peaceful protest, demanding change,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven). “With Senate passage of the police accountability bill, we have affirmed to the people of Connecticut that their voices were not ignored and that changes in laws and policies enhancing transparency and professionalism in policing will be the new norm in our state.”

“Over the past few months, I’ve heard from and marched with constituents who demanded change and accountability in policing,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “These calls have been echoed across the state and throughout our country, putting us in a unique position for change. By passing this bill, it shows that, as a legislature, we are committed to addressing the structural issues that exist and seek reform so that residents, particularly residents of color, regain trust and confidence in their police departments.”

“Today, the Senate took a step to right the wrongs of the past,” said Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven) who serves as Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “For years, I’ve stood side by side with activists and organizers who have fought tirelessly for social justice and changes in our criminal justice system. This is long-term work and addressing the systemic and racist policies that exist in this system and in policing will not be solved by one piece of legislation. But by passing this police accountability bill, we are finally acknowledging that these entrenched, systemic behaviors are unacceptable, and change is needed.”

This legislation is designed to provide additional accountability for police departments across the state to improve public interaction and to ensure officers are held responsible if they act in an unacceptable manner. It takes significant steps to overhaul current practices, including the following:

  • Requires police officers and correctional officers to intervene when a colleague is using excessive illegal force. If the onlooking officer does not intervene, then he or she may be charged for the same acts as the officer breaking the law.
  • Demilitarizes the police. Bans the acquisition of military grade equipment on the Department of Defense federal control list, authorizes DESPP to order police departments dispose of certain pieces of equipment currently in possession, and prohibits any such equipment in possession from being used for crowd control or intimidation tactics.
  • Entirely overhauls police training in the state. Instead of our current system, where police training varies from state police to town police, and from town to town, all future training would be conducted by the Police Officers Standards and Training Council (POST), which would be restructured with new members and more oversight. Implicit bias training would be mandatory for all officers, and a statewide standard would be developed for crowd control.
  • Sets standards for applicable for police departments across the state – Starting in 2015, and going forward, each police department must obtain and maintain accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. These standards will ensure a proper level of professionalism and organization so that all of our departments can provide the service deserving of the people’s trust. POST will use its resources to assist departments to achieve accreditation if it not obtained or lost in future years. The benefit of accreditation go beyond building community trust, it also promotes accountability within the department and lowers risk of liability.
  • Authorizes an independent statewide council to revoke the certification of any police officer. Individual police departments do not always remove officers who violate the law or their code of ethics, in part because the departments are too protective of their own. Allowing POST to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification will ensure independent review is conducted of police misconduct. Further, disciplinary records would be made available to the public through FOIA, and if an officer’s certification is revoked, he or she would be barred from working for another department or as a private security officer.
  • Eliminates qualified immunity that prohibits legal claims against police officers who violate a person’s equal protection rights. This immunity prevents legal claims against officers for discretionary acts that are not willful or reckless. Even good intentions of officers can lead to violations of our rights. This change will make the state, towns, and officers more accountable for their actions, and make law enforcement adjust the way they have operated.
  • Establishes a new independent Office of the Inspector General to investigate deaths caused by police. Since 2001, 76 people have died in our state when an officer used a gun or other deadly force. After investigations by the State’s Attorney Office, only one officer was charged with a crime, and there was no conviction. The State’s Attorneys develop close relationships with police to ensure our laws are enforced, but those relations can also create conflicts of interest, which we can eliminate with a new independent Inspector General’s office.
  • Prohibits officers from searching you or your car simply by asking for your consent. Unfortunately, interactions with police can be scary, tense, and confusing. If an officer asks to conduct a search, people often feel obligated to give consent despite their right to say no because they are afraid of escalating a situation with law enforcement or being charged for disobeying an officer. Under the bill, an officer cannot search a person without probable cause, and cannot search a car without probable cause or the driver’s unsolicited consent.