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Lawmakers considering new legislation to beef up police accountability in wake of George Floyd’s death

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Calls for more police accountability are coming to a head since the deadly officer-involved arrest in Minnesota involving George Floyd.

Here in Connecticut, a number of measures are in place to require police departments to be transparent and accountable for their officers’ actions.

Legislative leaders are currently drafting new laws which will be up for debate soon.

State Senator Gary Winfield is co-chair of the Judiciary Committee and will be writing those laws. He said there are systematic inequities that need to be addressed, like housing and healthcare along with police accountability.

“The police accountability work…without the other work, is not really doing the work that is necessary,” he said.

Law enforcement reforms like giving officers the ability to push another officer off of a suspect — enlight of the deadly police-involved incident in Minnesota. Another idea: An inspector general to oversee police-involved use of force.

It has bi-partisan support.

“What we are looking at is something independent of the system we currently have,” Winfield said.

“Which is going to shed a light on this,” Senator Len Fasano added.

Fasano represents East Haven, wherein 2009 the Department of Justice opened an investigation into excessive use of force and illegal searches by police. A settlement was reached, four officers were arrested and a department overhaul followed, which included wearing body cameras and more training.

“It takes a lot for a police department to lose that stigma, but we are here every single day working as hard as we can to improve that perception,” said Lieutenant Joesph Murgo.

Lawmakers are considering mandatory body cameras for the 65 Connecticut towns who still don’t use them.

“If they are small towns, perhaps we have to give them some money because that is expensive in terms of data storage,” Fasano said.

In Connecticut, laws have been passed that allow the chief state’s attorney to take over investigations. Body camera video must be released no later than 96 hours after an incident.
There are also policies for police pursuits and firing a weapon at a vehicle. The use of chokeholds must be reported, and pinning a suspect with a knee is not allowed.

Despite recent headlines, Murgo said a few bad apples should not reflect on all officers.

“The overwhelming majority of police officers go to work every single day put on their bulletproof vests and kiss their families goodbye,” he said.

News 8 reached out to both the Connecticut Police Union Local 74 and the State Police Union to see if they had any comment on new legislation for more accountability. Either has yet to comment.

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