MERIDEN — Surrounded by civil rights advocates, lawmakers and public safety leaders, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation Thursday that will encourage and fund police use of body cameras and clarify the rights of citizens to record police in public.
An Act Concerning Excessive Use of Force, the formal name of the body-camera bill, was the General Assembly’s response to local concerns and national controversies in Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri, and North Charleston, South Carolina, over police accountability, primarily in law enforcement’s dealing with minorities.
The new law helps municipalities fund the equipment for one year and also requires state police and university police to wear body cameras. It also encourages departments to recruit minorities and prohibits them from hiring former officers who were fired or disciplined for malfeasance or serious misconduct. It also requires that police shootings be investigated by a special prosecutor or a prosecutor in a different judicial district than where the death occurred.
“This is one of our premier bills, being looked at nationally,” said Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk, the chairman of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, House chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said there was a attempt in the legislature to direct attention away from the legislation and make it about big national policy issues.
“This is about families, real people,” Tong said. “This is about Ferguson, Staten Island, families ripped apart by the tension with law enforcement. This is not about national issues, this is about keeping Connecticut families safe.”
The new law follows Malloy’s “Second Chance Society” measure, which lowers penalties for drug possession and streamlines the process for paroles and pardons.
On Thursday, Malloy said cameras are a ubiquitous part of everyday life. Police have been trained in the use of cruiser cameras, and they will receive training in body cameras, he said.
Malloy said he believes that more often than not the camera will show the officer acted correctly. He added that trust in Connecticut law enforcement is better than other states.
“Police officers have to protect themselves,” Malloy told reporters. “This will provide a clear picture of what led up to a police officer taking action.”
The bill signing took place in a ceremony at the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden.