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Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Police Reform Bill

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Courtesy of CT-N
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State Senator Gary Winfield, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, introduces a speaker during testimony for a police accountability bill on Friday.

In Connecticut, the elimination of qualified immunity for police officers in civil lawsuits emerged as a contentious issue during a daylong hearing on a new police accountability bill.

Andrew Matthews, the head of the Connecticut State Police Union, testified that changes to the qualified immunity law would mean that officers would have to pay for their own personal liability insurance. He says that would chill police work.

“Some would retire, resign or significantly reduce their activity and interaction with the public for fear of being sued.”

Representative Brandon McGee, who co-chairs the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, didn't buy it.

“If we hold doctors accountable for malpractice, should we not hold our police officers to a higher standard? In the end if the police are doing nothing wrong, then they have nothing to be afraid of. Right?”

Westport lawyer Kristan Peters-Hamlin criticized the bill for lacking penalties for officers who fail to properly use body cameras.

“Having such a law with no penalties for not turning a body cam on, or purporting that it’s out of batteries, is a law that has no teeth.”

Lawmakers will consider the police accountability bill in a special session next week. The bill also has a provision that creates a new position of a state inspector general to investigate police killings. And there’s a provision to give local civilian police review boards the power to issue subpoenas when they investigate police misconduct.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
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