Connecticut state senators will consider a police reform bill on Tuesday, which includes a controversial change that would allow officers to be sued for misconduct. The measure has drawn intense lobbying from supporters and opponents ahead of the special session.
Leading the lobbying effort is state Treasurer Shawn Wooden, Connecticut’s only African American statewide elected official. Wooden said the House did the right thing in passing the bill last week, and the Senate should do the same.
“We are going to put as much pressure as possible on that State Senate. I urge people to make phone calls. And I believe, I am hopeful that we would get this done,” Wooden said.
The opposition is led by state police unions. They oppose some provisions of the bill including one that would hold officers accountable for misconduct, and another that would create a new position of an independent state inspector general to prosecute police killings.
Wooden said he can support these reforms and police at the same time.
“Police officers need to be supported. And yes, bad police officers who are guilty of wrongdoing need to be held accountable,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano supports the police union’s position that this might be a violation of the state constitution.
“Because the constitution only delegates one authority to do the prosecutions for the state of Connecticut," Fasano said. "This now creates a second one.”
Republicans tried to delay the vote on Monday. First, Fasano asked Attorney General William Tong to give a legal opinion on the bill. Tong has declined. He says he doesn’t want to interfere in an ongoing legislative debate.
Then, Fasano asked the Majority Democrats to delay a vote on the police accountability bill.
Governor Ned Lamont has indicated that he would sign the bill if it passes.
The legislation is in response to nationwide protests for police accountability and transparency. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the bill also includes common-sense bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants — tactics used in the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“It is a real must-do moment for Connecticut and I am not only hopeful, I am really confident that our state Senate will rise to the moment,” he said.
Blumenthal said the state legislation will help his colleagues in Washington D.C. take action and pass police reform in Congress.
"Connecticut’s model will give our colleagues courage in the Senate," Blumenthal said. "Connecticut can send a message about being a model for social and racial justice and moving forward this message in the United States Congress.”