Special Session Bills Passed, Easton Delegation Agrees/Disagrees

The Connecticut General Assembly closed its special session this week having adopted four pieces of legislation, three with bi-partisan support and one with a vote along party lines in favor of the Democratic majority in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.

State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28th, and state Rep. Anne Hughes, D-135th, tracked that overall voting in their respective legislative houses. Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Westport, and Hughes represents Easton, Redding, Weston.

The bill they disagreed on — Hughes yay, Hwang nay — was the most controversial of the four special-session proposals, and it took marathon, over-night debates in both houses before “An Act Concerning Police Accountability” was adopted.

The lightning rod in that legislative proposal was the section on qualified immunity for police from civil litigation.

The legislation would provide that individuals alleging that their civil rights have been violated by the actions of a police officer have a right to sue the officer with the only immunity for the officer being the court’s determination that the officer had an “objectively good faith belief” that his or her conduct did not violate the law. 

There is a provision in the bill that each municipality “shall protect and save harmless” the sued officer from financial losses and expenses resulting from such litigation. However, if the officer is judged to have committed a “malicious, wanton or willful act,” he or she is required to reimburse the municipality for its costs and expenses.

The accountability legislation would also create the new position of inspector general to investigate police use of deadly force. As well, the legislation would allow the formation of civilian review boards with subpoena powers in police matters. Disciplinary actions against police officers would be in the public record, and the bill has provisions making it easier for municipalities to fire and decertify police officers. That could prevent them from being hired by other municipalities.

Contributor’s Note: This is the first of three stories on the recently concluded legislative session. The three other pieces of legislation will be covered in a subsequent story.

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