Sen. Hwang Supports Bipartisan Bill to Improve Police Interaction with Public

June 2, 2015

The legislation promotes enhanced police officer training and provides financial aid for towns to equip officers with body cameras.

HARTFORD – Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) was proud to join with his Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle early Tuesday morning by voting in support of legislation that provides enhanced training and tools to improve interactions between police officers and the public.

The amended bill, S.B. 1109: An Act Concerning Excessive Use of Force, was passed by the Senate in a unanimous vote. It now heads to the House of Representatives with less than two days left in the 2015 legislative session.

SB 1109 aims to reduce the likelihood of unnecessary police shootings and excessive use of force – issues that have been thrust into the national conversation by tragic police-involved shootings of unarmed black men in Missouri, New York and South Carolina – and to improve accountability, transparency and trust between police and the communities they serve and protect.

A major component of the bill provides incentives for police departments that would like to introduce body cameras to be worn by police officers while on duty. The bill does not require local departments to implement body cameras; it merely provides reimbursement to those that pursue the technology.

“This bill is a prime example of the good we can do in government when both parties sit down together and exchange ideas in an open, inclusive and respectful manner,” Sen. Hwang said. “The bill the Senate passed unanimously incorporates key provisions from both sides, while retaining the legislative intent and positive outcomes we all are looking for.”

“Our police officers put their lives on the line for us every day, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their hard work,” Sen. Hwang added. “At the same time, we cannot ignore the systemic distrust and divide that exists between police officers and the public, at varying levels, in every community in Connecticut. I truly believe this bill provides our communities with the tools and resources they need to help bridge that gap.”

The bill addresses police use of body cameras as follows:

  • Does not mandate body cameras, but creates an incentive for police departments to voluntarily equip officers with body cameras. Incentive is in the form of a grant in aid reimbursement program, including a 100% reimbursement for implementation and storage of information for the first year. Police units that plan to equip in the second year will receive a 50% reimbursement rate.
  • Requires the Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) and Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) to work together to create a list of acceptable body cameras
  • Includes provisions for the utilization of body cameras including when and where cameras need to be turned on

Other elements of the bill would:

  • Require police units to enhance outreach and make efforts to recruit, retain and promote minority officers in communities with a high concentration of minority residents
  • Require tactical training for police officers regarding the use of physical force, training in the use of body cameras, and cultural sensitivity and bias-free police training
  • Require police officers to note if there is use of force in a situation when carrying out their duties and keep track of this information
  • In cases involving use of deadly force, the Chief State’s Attorney will appoint someone outside of the county to conduct an investigation
  • Prohibits police officers from interfering with a person recording them, aside from specified exempt situations such as to preserve the integrity of a crime scene or for reasons of public safety