OLR Bill Analysis
AN ACT CONCERNING EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE.
This bill makes a number of changes regarding law enforcement training, procedures, and hiring. Specifically, it:
1. requires police basic and review training programs conducted by the State Police, Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), and municipal police departments to include training on (a) using deadly force, (b) using body-worn recording equipment (body cameras) and retaining the records it creates, and (c) cultural competency and sensitivity;
2. requires police officers and certain other law enforcement officials to wear body cameras, as determined by the relevant supervisory authority;
3. requires agencies to disclose images and video recorded by the equipment under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) unless they can be withheld from disclosure under the existing exceptions for certain law enforcement purposes;
4. requires law enforcement units to develop and implement guidelines to recruit and retain minority police officers;
5. expands the circumstances when the Division of Criminal Justice must investigate a death involving a peace officer to include any use of physical force, not just deadly force, resulting in death and requires, rather than allows, appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct an investigation;
6. requires law enforcement units to record and maintain information about incidents during which a police officer's or another law enforcement official's firearm is discharged and whether a death resulted; and
7. (a) prohibits a law enforcement unit from hiring a police officer who was, in previous employment with the unit or in another jurisdiction, dismissed for misconduct or resigned or retired during a misconduct investigation and (b) requires a law enforcement unit to inform another unit about an officer's dismissal, resignation, or retirement under these circumstances if it knows the officer is applying for a position as police officer with the other unit.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015
The bill's requirement to wear body cameras applies to sworn members of organized local police departments, appointed constables who perform criminal law enforcement duties, special policemen appointed for state property or utility or transportation companies or to investigate public assistance fraud, and any member of a law enforcement unit who performs police duties.
The emergency services and public protection (DESPP) commissioner, board of police commissioners, police chief, police superintendent, or other authority having charge over one of these officers determines how and when the officer must wear the equipment.
Disclosure Under FOIA
The bill requires disclosure of images and video recorded by the equipment under FOIA and the requirement to disclose certain arrest records. But the bill allows an agency to withhold them from disclosure under an existing exemption for a law enforcement record that is not otherwise available to the public, that was compiled to detect or investigate crime, and disclosure of which would not be in the public interest because it would disclose:
1. an informant's or witness's identity that is not otherwise known and the person's safety would be jeopardized or he or she would be subjected to threats or intimidation;
2. a minor witness's identity;
3. a signed witness statement;
4. information for a prospective law enforcement action, if prejudicial to the action;
5. investigatory techniques not otherwise known to the general public;
6. juvenile arrest records;
7. the name and address of a victim of certain types of sexual assault, risk of injury to or impairing the morals of a minor, or an attempt to commit one of these crimes; or
8. uncorroborated allegations the law requires be destroyed.
MINORITY POLICE OFFICER HIRING
By January 1, 2016, the bill requires law enforcement units to develop and implement guidelines to recruit and retain minority police officers. Under the bill, a “minority” is an individual whose race is other than white or whose ethnicity is defined as Hispanic or Latino by the U.S. Census. The bill applies to state, municipal, or other government subdivision entities with a primary function that includes enforcing criminal or traffic laws; preserving public order; protecting life and property; or preventing, detecting, or investigating crime. It also applies to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes' law enforcement units, which each have a memorandum of understanding with the state establishing a tribal police department.
The bill requires each unit's guidelines to consider the racial and ethnic background of the community served by the unit and ensure efforts to make the unit's racial and ethnic breakdown resemble the community's.
USE OF FORCE INVESTIGATIONS
The bill expands when the Division of Criminal Justice must investigate a death involving a peace officer (see BACKGROUND). Currently, the division must investigate when a peace officer, in the performance of his or her duties, uses deadly physical force on someone and that person dies. The bill requires an investigation when the officer uses any type of physical force and death results.
The bill requires the chief state's attorney to appoint for purposes of these investigations a special assistant state's attorney or special deputy assistant state's attorney. (These attorneys are temporarily appointed under a contract.) Currently, he can do so but he also has the option to designate a prosecutor from a judicial district other than the one where the incident occurred to conduct the investigation. Current division policy requires an investigation into any death determined to have been caused by a police officer's use of force and the chief state's attorney must assign a state's attorney from a judicial district other than the one where the incident occurred to supervise the investigation and decide whether to pursue criminal charges.
As under current law, the investigation's report must include the incident's circumstances, a determination whether the officer used force appropriately, and the action that will be taken as a result of the incident.
REPORTS OF DICHARGE OF FIREARM
The bill requires law enforcement units (as described above) to record and maintain information about incidents in which a police officer's firearm is discharged and whether a death resulted. This applies to firearms used by sworn members of organized local police departments, appointed constables who perform criminal law enforcement duties, special policemen appointed for state property or utility or transportation companies or to investigate public assistance fraud, and any members of law enforcement units who perform police duties.
The council (1) trains, certifies, and establishes minimum qualifications for municipal police officers and others and (2) enforces professional standards for certifying and decertifying them.
By law, “peace officers” are state or local police officers, Division of Criminal Justice inspectors, state marshals exercising statutory authority, judicial marshals performing their duties, conservation officers or special conservation officers, constables who perform criminal law enforcement duties, appointed special policemen, adult probation officers, Department of Correction officials authorized to make arrests in a correctional institution or facility, investigators in the State Treasurer's Office, federal narcotics agents, and POST-certified members of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes' law enforcement units (CGS § 53a-3(9)).
Use of Force by Peace Officers and Other Officials
Peace officers, special policemen, POST-certified motor vehicle inspectors or authorized DOC or Board of Pardons and Paroles officials are justified in using physical force, when and to the extent they reasonably believe it necessary, to (1) make an arrest or prevent a custodial escape, unless they know that the arrest or custody is unauthorized, or (2) defend themselves or someone else from the use or imminent use of physical force while making or attempting to make an arrest or while preventing or attempting to prevent an escape (CGS § 53a-22(b)).
These officers are justified in using deadly physical force when they reasonably believe it is necessary to (1) defend themselves or someone else from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force and (2) arrest or prevent the escape from custody of someone whom he or she reasonably believes committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury, and if, where feasible, the officer warned of the intent to use deadly physical force (CGS § 53a-22(c)).
“Deadly physical force” is physical force that can be reasonably expected to cause death or serious physical injury (CGS § 53a-3(5)).
sSB 770, File 436 reported favorably by the Public Safety and Security Committee, requires DESPP to conduct a pilot program on police body-worn video equipment.