Sen. Champagne Statement on Senate Passage of Police Accountability Bill

July 29, 2020

HARTFORD – State Senator Dan Champagne (R-35), member of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee, released the following statement in response to H.B. 6004, which makes sweeping reforms to the standards that police officers in Connecticut are held to. It includes limits on use of force, mandatory body/dash cameras, and an Inspector General to oversee investigations into police misconduct.

The most controversial element of the bill is the elimination of “qualified immunity” for officers. This immunity has previously protected qualified police officers from being individually sued for an adverse incident.

“This bill is damaging to public safety across the state and it effectively places financial burdens on municipalities. In a time when crime in Connecticut is on the rise, we as legislators should support law enforcement and this bill does not do that. In fact, it leaves far more questions than answers. It makes it more difficult for law enforcement officers to do their job. It contains onerous regulations on policing tactics and practices including crowd control, motor vehicle searches, search warrants, use of force and decertification,” said Sen. Champagne.

“As a former police sergeant, I’ve read through this and I don’t understand what is in the bill. I’ve sat down with a police captain, two lieutenants and a chief of police and went through the bill with them. Even they were not certain of what is in it. They were not sure about what is and is not acceptable police conduct according to the bill. There are many questions that remain; these are big questions that put people’s lives in danger. This matters to me. Every life matters to me.

“Not only this, the elimination of ‘qualified immunity’ will almost certainly bring increased litigation costs to municipalities. Without it, law enforcement officers will be exposed to frivolous lawsuits for cases as simple as a speeding ticket. In a normal case, a suit would be thrown out of court. Under this bill, the case can keep going. This type of case will eventually become the new ‘slip and fall’. Taxpayers will have to pay for these frivolous lawsuits.

“There is no question that I am in favor of accountability. However, we are rushing this bill through and that is evident based on its uncertain language. As a member of the Public Safety and Security Committee, I worked in a bipartisan effort to put together a police reform bill in 2019. I did not have that opportunity with this bill, which did not receive the necessary public scrutiny and testimony. As such, there are police officers across the state that oppose this bill with the belief that they do not have our support. I agree with them.”