In somewhat of a banner day at the CT Senate (this is turning out to be quite the legislative session), two bills passed that chamber of the legislature and move to the House for its approval. Both bills have to do with police behavior, both having been in the spotlight recently.
The first is a bill that not only makes it clear that it is legal for citizens to record police officers, but also provides a cause of action for a lawsuit against officers who illegally prevent citizens from conducting such video recording:
(b) A peace officer who interferes with any person taking a photographic or digital still or video image of such peace officer or another peace officer acting in the performance of such peace officer’s duties shall, subject to sections 5-141d, 7-465 and 29-8a of the general statutes, be liable to such person in an action at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress.
There are some exceptions, however, to civil liability:
(c) A peace officer shall not be liable under subsection (b) of this section if the peace officer had reasonable grounds to believe that the peace officer was interfering with the taking of such image in order to (1) lawfully enforce a criminal law of this state or a municipal ordinance, (2) protect the public safety, (3) preserve the integrity of a crime scene or criminal investigation, (4) safeguard the privacy interests of any person, including a victim of a crime, or (5) lawfully enforce court rules and policies of the Judicial Branch with respect to taking a photograph, videotaping or otherwise recording an image in facilities of the Judicial Branch.
Some of which seem to be somewhat vague in their definition and might lend themselves to overbroad application. But hopefully this codification will prevent what happened to Luis Luna from happening again. For more on the debate on this bill, see this Capitol Watch post.
1) A standardized form, in both printed and electronic format, to be used by police officers of municipal police departments and the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to record traffic stop information. The form shall allow the following information to be recorded: (A) Date and time of stop; (B) location of the stop; (C) name and badge number of the police officer making the stop; (D) race, color, ethnicity, age and gender of the operator of the motor vehicle that is stopped, provided the identification of such characteristics shall be based on the observation and perception of the police officer responsible for reporting the stop; (E) nature of the alleged traffic violation or other violation that caused the stop to be made and the statutory citation for such violation; (F) the disposition of the stop including whether a warning, citation or summons was issued, whether a search was conducted and whether a custodial arrest was made; and (G) any other information deemed appropriate. The form shall also include a notice that if the person stopped believes they have been stopped, detained or searched solely because of their race, color, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation, they may file a complaint with the appropriate law enforcement agency, and instructions on how to file such complaint;
The CT Mirror reports on the basics of this bill:
The anti-profiling bill sets standards for reporting the information and shifts responsibility for its analysis from the Commission on African-American Affairs to the Office of Policy and Management, which has staff and resources unavailable to the commission. The new legislation also allows OPM to withhold public safety-related state funds from communities that don’t comply.
Though most GOP senators backed the anti-profiling bill, Canton Republican Kevin Witkos, a 28-year veteran of that community’s police force, argued that while profiling is wrong, the measure was flawed. Rather than requiring officers to guess at a motor vehicle operator’s race and ethnicity, Witkos said the legislature should mandate that drivers provide this information on their driver’s license.
But [Judiciary Committee Co-Chair Sen.] Coleman argued this would work against efforts to end profiling, adding that it’s crucial to know what an officer’s beliefs about an operator were when the decision to stop the motorist was made. Witkos also tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the bill to ensure that state funds couldn’t be stripped from community policing or youth athletic programs tied to municipal departments found not in compliance with profiling reporting rules. “It’s not fair to the other areas of the police department that do good work,” he said.
All in all, a good start.