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Bill on rehiring fired Connecticut cops divides lawmakers, police union

John Bazemore
Associated Press

Public safety advocates and the state’s largest police union are at odds over a proposed bill to toughen an existing law preventing officers who were fired for malfeasance or serious misconduct, as well as those who quit or retire while under investigation, from being hired by another department.

The current law defines serious misconduct as improper or illegal action by an officer including fabricating evidence, repeated use of excessive force, accepting a bribe or being convicted of a felony.

The bill being considered in the Senate widens that definition to include discrimination, failing to stop the use of force by an officer that was later found to be unjustifiable, and intimidation or harassment.

In testimony last week before the Legislature's public safety committee, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said the department supports the bill.

Brian Anderson, legislative director for Council 4 AFSCME’s public safety chapter, which represents 2,000 police officers, said he was opposed to making the requirements even stricter, calling it “overkill," the Hartford Courant reported.

“It has been made easier to fire a police officer. It has been made extremely difficult for an officer who made a mistake, albeit serious, to rehabilitate him or herself,” Anderson said. “At what point is there overkill in monitoring, disciplining or calling into question the overall character of police officers?"

The bill also would give police officers a hearing to determine whether they were exonerated or if the conduct was considered malfeasance or serious misconduct. Malfeasance could be considered abuse of sick time, for example, while serious misconduct can encompass criminal behavior.

Rep. Greg Howard, a Republican who's also a Stonington police officer, said there currently isn't a way for officers fired for lesser offenses to appeal decertification.

State Victim Advocate Natasha M. Pierre told the committee said the proposed legislation would make sure an officer found guilty of serious misconduct or under investigation wouldn't be able to “simply go to the next town” and be hired again, the Courant reported.

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