HARTFORD, Conn. (WCBS 880) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed sweeping police reforms into law on Friday.
The legislation calls for more oversight of police including implicit bias training, requiring the use of body cameras, and an inspector general to review the use of force.
Chokeholds, strangleholds and other tactics restraining oxygen and blood flow are also banned. According to a news release, officers will have whistleblower protections to report excessive use of force.
“These reforms are focused on bringing real change to end the systemic discrimination that exists in our criminal justice and policing systems that have impacted minority communitiesfor far too long,” Lamont said. “Ultimately, what we are enacting today are policies focused on providing additional safeguards to protect peoples’ lives and make our communities stronger. Our nation and our state has been having a conversationon this topic for decades, and these reforms are long overdue.”
Civil lawsuits can now be filed directly against police officers by individuals who've had their constitutional rights violated by police if those actions were deemed "malicious, wanton or willful."
The legislation removes qualified immunity, which protected officers from having to pay damages.
"When you take away qualified immunity essentially an officer that does wrong or is found liable could have to pay a lot of damages in a civil court following an action that he did while working as a police officer," Brian Foley, a former Hartford Homicide detective and assistant to the commissioner of Connecticut State Police, told WCBS 880's Mack Rosenberg.
Foley said not much changes for officers in their day-to-day job.
"The only thing that has been changed is that the state standard of qualified immunity matches now the federal standard of qualified immunity. So if you're a police officer and you're still doing your job and you're not willfully or wantonly breaking the law, knowingly breaking the law, and you're acting as a police officer, you will be indemnified by your municipality," Foley said. "In fact we have some prominent trial lawyers in Connecticut upset that qualified immunity hasn't gone anywhere."
Foley said the relationship between police and communities in the state is strained following months of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism sparked by the police custody death of George Floyd.
"Now's the time where police departments have to really be as transparent and as accountable as they possible can be and continue in some of those efforts to relate to the community and build trust and build bonds," Foley said.