Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives passed a police accountability bill, 86-58, Friday morning after eight hours of debate. Seven lawmakers did not vote.
One controversial part of the bill removes “qualified immunity.”
The current state statute prevents officers from being held personally liable for misconduct. This bill gets rid of that protection and an amendment that would have kept "qualified immunity" for police officers failed early Friday morning.
Democratic lawmakers said the language of the bill was adjusted so departments would hold the liability.
“No officer is personally liable under this language unless what you did, your action, was malicious, wanted and reckless. That’s the same federal court standard,” Majority Leader State Rep. Matthew Ritter (D-Hartford) said.
But several Republicans posed an amendment to remove the section of the bill banning qualified immunity, but that amendment failed after a vote ended in a 72-72 tie.
“Once qualified immunity starts to get nicked away at, which this starts, there should be no cop that feels safe going on the road and going to work without having his own insurance,” Minority Leader State Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby, Orange and Woodbridge) said.
She added that she was disappointed that there was not full bipartisan support, felt the bill was rushed, as well as the position she feels people have been put in.
“I’m very offended by the fact that we, legislators, everybody, have been put in a position where you either pro -law enforcement or you’re pro-minority. I think not only should we be both, but we must be both because that is the only way to make the best policy for the state of Connecticut,” she said.
The bill also limits use of deadly force and calls for officers to face disciplinary action for not deescalating the situation.
The proposed legislation also calls for an inspector general to review deadly use of force cases. It also requires the purchase and use of body camera footage by local police departments, as well as storage of the footage for three years, which critics argue amounts to defunding of police.
Several state representatives echoed the sentiments of Black Lives Matter protesters who have been calling for more police accountability in Connecticut as well as around the country.
“We believe Black lives matter. We believe there are good police officers, but we believe we are here to pass a bill to make those bad officers stand out and get out,” State Rep. Anthony Nolan said.
The bill now moves to the state Senate.