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Conn. House starts debate on police accountability bill proposal

Debate has started on a wide-ranging police accountability bill that calls for reforming police practices and training in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people.

Police officers and their supporters had warning for lawmakers who support what they consider “an anti-police bill,” with many chanting “vote them out.” Members of the General Assembly are up for reelection in November.

While there were mixed feelings about various parts of the bill, officers appeared to uniformly oppose a provision that would change immunity protections for police in some circumstances for violating someone’s civil rights. Also, many officers complained they felt unfairly targeted because of the actions of the officers in Minneapolis, who killed Floyd, and other “bad cops” across the country.

John Krupinsky, president of the Connecticut State Fraternal Order of Police and a 41-year veteran Danbury police officer, said he opposes the entire bill, which includes a new inspector general to investigate police use-of-force cases, periodic mental health screenings for officers, changes to the state’s “use of force” policy, moving from a subjective standard to a more objective standard; and new training requirements for police, including on implicit bias and how to manage crowds of people.

Krupinsky predicted the legislation will have a chilling effect on the police profession in Connecticut.

“People don’t understand. Guys, when they hear the shots fired call, they’re going to take a right. They’re not going to put themselves in the middle of this. They’ve got a chance to go to jail now. They’ve got a chance to have their house taken away,” he said. “Policing as you know it is over.”

In recent days, lawmakers have been making last-minute changes to the police accountability bill, including the portion that would ban “qualified immunity,” making officers personally and legally liable for their actions. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the latest version would change the statute of limitations for lawsuits against officers and make it clear the municipality where the officer works would be liable, not the officer personally, which she said is also untenable considering the financial exposure to taxpayers.