Several sections of CT’s Police Accountability bill take effect Thursday

Crime

(WTNH) — With the state legislature holding a special session this week, several sections of the most controversial piece of legislation from the last special session – the Police Accountability bill – are set to take effect Thursday.

That bill was passed by state lawmakers during the previous special session, and signed into law by Governor Lamont on July 31.

Related: Gov. Lamont signs Police Accountability bill into law

Here are sections of that law which take effect on Oct. 1:

Responsibility to intervene if a fellow officer uses excessive force: Any on-duty officer who witnesses another officer using excessive force is required to step in and intervene. An officer who witnesses excessive force being used can be charged with the same crime as the officer who uses the force. This will also apply to corrections officers but will contain exemptions for undercover police. According to the law, no department is allowed to retaliate against an officer who does intervene in a case of excessive force.

Independent Office of the Inspector General to investigate police killings: According to the Police Accountability Bill, “Whenever a peace officer, in the performance of such officer’s duties, uses physical force upon another person and such person dies as a result thereof or uses deadly force, as defined in section 53a-3, upon another person, the [Division of Criminal Justice shall cause an investigation to be made and shall have the responsibility of determining] Inspector General shall investigate and determine whether the use of physical force by the peace officer was [appropriate] justifiable.” What that means is that all killings by police in the line of duty will now be subject to investigation by the independent Office of the Inspector General.

Consent required for police to search vehicles: Police are no longer allowed to ask to search a car pulled over strictly for a motor vehicle violation. Officers now need probable cause or “unsolicited consent” from the operator of the vehicle. Police also can not ask for any more identification “outside of an operator’s license, motor vehicle registration, insurance identity card, or other documentation or identification directly related to the stop.”

Increased penalties for falsely reporting incidents based on race, ethnicity, disability, religion (or other classification): Defendants who are found to have called 911 or falsely reported a crime based on another person’s race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity will face stiffer penalties for those false reports. Filing those reports will be classified as a Class C or Class D Felony.

Officers who lose state certification may not apply for licenses to work as security guards: The new police accountability bill states that members of the force who lose their license for an expanded list of infractions – including the use of excessive force and racial profiling – may not be able to apply for a license to work as a private security guard.

Some of the more controversial parts of the bill will not take effect until 2021. This includes the changes to qualified immunity which will open officers to lawsuits related to their conduct.

Related: Law enforcement unions say police accountability bill was rushed, will cause officers to retire early

These changes all come on the heels of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody which led to protests around the state and around the country. Whether the changes lead to an increase in officers leaving the force, as predicted when the bill was passed, remains to be seen.

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