Police Accountability Bill Passes HouseJuly 28, 2020
The amendment failed and the final bill modifies qualified immunity to allow a victim or family of a victim to sue in cases of deliberate and serious allegations.
House Bill 6004 An Act Concerning Police Accountability passed in the House by a vote of 86-58.
Provisions of the bill include the following:
Qualified Immunity is altered to give a civil cause of action to individuals who have had their constitutional rights violated by the police. The limits to qualified immunity are similar to the existing standards in federal cases, including misconduct that is determined to be malicious, wanton or willful.
- The definition of “use of force” is updated. Use of force can only be justified under an objectively reasonable standard, meaning that an officer has exhausted all reasonable alternatives, that the force creates no significant risk of injury to a third party, and that such use of force is necessary. No tactic to restrain oxygen and blood flow to the head, including chokeholds and strangleholds, can be used unless it’s deemed necessary to protect oneself or save the life of someone else. Officers must intervene and report excess use of force to their local police departments; whistleblower protections will be provided to those who do.
- Office of the Inspector General (IG) is created. Housed under the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney’s Division of Criminal Justice, the IG would have the power to conduct use of force investigations with prosecutorial authority. The IG can refer cases to POST to determine sanctions and possible de-certification of officers. The IG would be nominated by the Chief State’s Attorney with a public hearing and confirmation hearing every 4 years required before the legislature’s Committee on Judiciary. The IG’s staff would include an associate attorney, chief investigator and possible administrator who can come from the State’s attorney office.
- The Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) gains additional oversight and disciplinary powers. POST, which provides certification and trainings to officers statewide, will be reconstituted. Current membership will step down on December 31, 2020 and additional appointment criteria will be implemented such as a requirement that justice-impacted persons be members and the diversification of the size of towns represented. If a member misses 50% or more of meetings in calendar year, they lose their seat.
- POST will also: issue annual reports on minority recruitment efforts; have the authority to conduct hearings and suspend, censor, or decertify an officer; make such determinations when an officer has engaged in conduct that undermines public confidence in law enforcement or when an officer uses excess or unjustifiable force. If an officer is de-certified by POST, they cannot be employed as a security guard.
- Mental health screenings and other training requirements are mandated for officers. Periodic mental health screenings will be required at a Chief’s discretion where there is a cause. Screening must be conducted no less than every 5 years and when an officer changes departments. Officers will also be required to take implicit bias trainings and follow crowd control policy to be developed by POST.
- Individuals providing police training at police departments or at an academy must be certified in their field of expertise, such as implicit bias.
- Uniform officers must have their name and badge number readily visible on their outermost garment. This does not apply to those undercover.
In the weeks leading up to the vote the legislature's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and members of the Judiciary Committee listened to the public's concerns for a substantive bill that addresses police accountability and transparency. It is because we listened that we succeeded in passing HB 6004.
The Senate is expected to debate and vote on the legislation. If it passes, the bill goes to Governor Lamont for his signature.