Police accountability bill should become law

During this time of pandemic, it’s been challenging for our state legislators to keep up with passing bills that address their constituents’ ongoing changing needs. But when push comes to shove, they are opting for returning to work to make things happen. One of those things they rightly made a priority of after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., by an officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck  for more than 8 minutes, is the police accountability bill about which the Legislature’s judiciary committee held a more than 7-hour hearing on Friday, July 17. Our own state Rep. Maria Horn (D-64), a member of that committee, listened to more than 150 testimonies during that time. Horn also posted the Zoom discussion on Facebook for her constituents to view. 

The bill was crafted by a bipartisan group, according to the Hartford Courant, and includes bans on chokeholds, a requirement for the wearing of body cameras, a change in qualified immunity and a mandate for the public release of complaints against police whether they are found to be legitimate or not. The bill is aimed at changing the culture of police force operation in the state of Connecticut. While there are concerns from the State Police union and other law enforcement groups, the need for reform in policing is an issue that will not and should not go away quietly in the current climate. 

The final version of the bill should include having police accountability, with all complaints open to the public. If they are found to be baseless, all the better. But the public should know what the police are dealing with on a regular basis, and what the outcomes of those actions are. 

There are many good and dedicated police officers who engage with people in their communities who benefit from their intervention in crisis situations, this is not to be denied. But when there are also cops who take advantage of their stance of power over those who have none, legislation must be passed and enforced to address their actions. There is a balance in fairness that can be found. The legislation must be implemented responsibly, with open knowledge of what the regulations are on police behavior. Transparency is of the utmost importance when it comes to police activity, and Connecticut needs to address a steady diminishing of such openness in recent years. 

The General Assembly has been called back for a special session that began Tuesday, July 21, to discuss this bill, as well as the process for the upcoming elections and absentee ballots, among other things. Here’s hoping our representatives can take action on at least these two issues, strengthening the state’s stance relating to law enforcement and the state regulations on voting absentee, which should be allowed more widely during a pandemic that puts voters at risk. 

 

 

 

 

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