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Making Police Accountable

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

Connecticut just passed a major bill to start holding police accountable. The law is the latest state-level effort to reform American policing since the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police in May.

After months of protests against racism and police brutality, it would be a great waste if all that effort doesn’t translate into real change. Fortunately, in some states that change is already happening, reports CNN.

Last week, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed sweeping police accountability legislation into law. The law institutes a new statewide watchdog for police misconduct, bans “chokeholds” in most instances and puts limits on the ability of police departments to withhold officers’ disciplinary records. It also allows individual officers to be held financially liable in civil suits over their actions.

The law requires all departments statewide to equip officers with body-worn cameras and places limits on the military equipment Connecticut police departments can acquire or use.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut tweeted its support for the bill Wednesday evening. “Ending police violence will not be solved by any one bill, but the bill passed out of the legislature today is a start,” Melvin Medina, the ACLU of Connecticut’s public policy and advocacy director, said in a statement.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill in June that mandates police officers wear body cameras and banned chokeholds. Meanwhile Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania signed a pair of bills earlier this month that require officers seeking new positions to reveal previous employment records and mandate mental health evaluations of officers and training in use of force.

One of the most heavily debated sections of the new Connecticut law is a blow to “qualified immunity,” the idea that government officials are protected from civil suits while performing the functions of their job. Under the law signed Friday, Connecticut police officers can be subject to civil suit and can only claim immunity if the officer “had an objectively good faith belief that such officer’s conduct did not violate the law.”

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