What Is Included In The New Connecticut Police Reform Law?

In the wake of the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests against police brutality, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law comprehensive police accountability legislation that institutes a new statewide watchdog for police misconduct.

The new law bans the controversial use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants, limits the ability of police officers to withhold officer disciplinary records, and requires all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. In addition, the new law allows individual officers to be held financially responsible in civil lawsuits over their actions.

In a press release, Gov. Lamont said:

"These reforms are focused on bringing real change to end the systemic discrimination that exists in our criminal justice and policing systems that have impacted minority communities for far too long.”

Under the new law, an independent Office of the Inspector General will be created to investigate the use of deadly force and instances of death while in police custody throughout the state. This new office will have subpoena power, and will have the ability to refer prosecutions to the Division of Criminal Justice.

Limitations to Qualified Immunity for Personal Injury

One of the most important sections of the police reform law is a limitation to qualified immunity, a concept that shields government officials from civil lawsuits that arise while they are performing the functions of their job.

Under this new law, police officers can be subject to civil suit for injuries that they inflict while on the job. For example, when an individual is injured or killed by a police officer’s use of force, that individual or their family may have the ability to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages caused by the officer.

Previously, officers were protected from these types of legal actions. Under this new law, however, Connecticut police officers can only claim qualified immunity from civil liability if they acted with an objectively “good faith” belief that their conduct was not in violation of the law. In addition, police officers may be responsible for reimbursing the government for legal defense if they are found to have acted maliciously, wantonly, or willfully in causing harm to a citizen.

Bans On Chokeholds in Connecticut

Other parts of the police reform bill banned certain law enforcement conduct, such as the use of chokeholds, which could result in civil liability if used by an officer. The use of chokeholds as a means of restraint came under scrutiny in 2020 with the death of George Floyd.

There are two types of neck restraints that are currently being targeted by new legislation around the nation. The first is the chokehold, which restricts an individual's ability to breathe. The second is a carotid hold, which limits blood flow to the brain. Both actions are extremely dangerous, and as the world saw earlier this year, can lead to death.

"Ultimately, what we are enacting today are policies focused on providing additional safeguards to protect peoples' lives and make our communities stronger. Our nation and our state has been having a conversation on this topic for decades, and these reforms are long overdue," Gov. Lamont said.

A survey by the Washington Post revealed that of the 65 largest U.S. police departments, 46 prohibit chokeholds in their use-of-force policies, and another 44 prohibit carotid holds in those policies.

Other Connecticut Police Reform Measures

Other changes outlined in the new law include new membership guidelines for the Police Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST. This organization is responsible for providing certifications and training to police officers in Connecticut, and it will be reconstituted to be more representative of individuals impacted by the judicial system.

POST will also issue an annual report on police department efforts to recruit minority officers, develop new crowd control policies, implement implicit bias training and ensure that police officer disciplinary records are not concealed. 

In addition, the law requires all uniformed officers to wear their names and badge numbers so that they are visible on all outer garments. Police officers will also be required to use both body cameras and dashboard cameras.

What Should You Do If You Are Injured By A Police Officer?

If you have been injured by a police officer through the excessive use of force, or believe that your rights have been violated in the course of a police encounter, we encourage you to contact our office today for a free consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in both criminal law and personal injury, and we can help you determine the best path forward.

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