Urged on by Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Connecticut Senate assured final passage of a police accountability bill early Wednesday morning, 21-15, during a rushed special session.
ICYMI: The police accountability bill passed the senate early this morning. With that vote, the bill passes out of the legislature. It now awaits action by Governor Lamont. https://t.co/RWgFGgn8mp
— ACLU of Connecticut (@acluct) July 29, 2020
Bill No. 6004 (LCO No. 3700) passed the State House 86-58 Friday, after hours of overnight debate and then moved on to the Senate.
Every Senate Republican voted against the bill.
“This is an anti-police bill,” Sen. Rob Sampson (R) said, according to CT Mirror. “This bill seeks to decimate law enforcement as we know it.”
The Mirror reported:
The measure represents a breakthrough for Black Lives Matter, the ACLU and other groups that have struggled and, until now, most often failed to make significant changes in how police are recruited, trained, deployed, managed and disciplined. The bill is comprehensive, packed with reforms deemed politically impossible in past years.
Some Democrats, including State Sens. Cathy Osten, a former corrections officer, and Steve Cassano, who were undecided about the bill, ultimately voted for it with their party.
Only one Democrat, Sen. Joan Hartley, joined with the GOP in opposing passage.
The bill creates a new “office” of “inspector general” to investigate complaints against police, requires body and dashboard cameras, and restricts circumstances in which police may use deadly physical force.
The most contentious section of the bill alters the concept of qualified immunity, which prevents police officers from experiencing personal financial damages due to civil lawsuits related to their work.
Sen. Dan Champagne (R) said the bill would bar police from pressing motorists to search a vehicle unless they had probable cause to do so, a situation that would likely cause officers to recoil for fear of being sued.
Champagne, a retired police officer, challenged State Senate Judiciary Committee co-chair Sen. Gary Winfield (D), who is black, on the Senate floor.
“This is an issue about how power is used in communities,” Winfield said, according to CTNewsJunkie. “This is about how power is misused in community.”
According to the report, Winfield added the focus should be on those people who have been unable to get justice, not on police officers.
But Champagne continued the bill does not single out bad officers. Instead, it targets all law enforcement officers.
“Basically, nobody wants the bad policeman left in the police department,” he said. “When it comes down to it, we have these laws put in place that are going to punish all officers—all good officers.”
The bill, Champagne said, will cause all police officers to “think this is politicians not backing them up and I agree with them.”
The Mirror also reported:
Champagne said he sees only pitfalls, traps for well-intended police officers and invitations for frivolous lawsuits. He peppered Winfield with hypotheticals. Could someone who got a speeding ticket sue? What about the officer who confronts an armed man, fires and mistakenly hits a bystander? Would regional SWAT teams still be possible?
Winfield responded, “We can have all these hypotheticals and all of the stuff you want to talk about. I’ve heard it all.”
“But there’s no justice for those people,” he continued. “And that means no justice for me. And if there’s no justice for me, there’s no justice for those people. And what you call justice is injustice.”