Contact: Andrew Ammirati
April 19, 2012
State Senator Eric D. Coleman (D-Bloomfield), Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee, announced this afternoon that the State Senate has passed two major pieces of civil rights legislation. One is aimed at strengthening Connecticut’s racial profiling ban, the other at protecting the existing right of citizens to record and photograph police activity.
“Racial profiling is a great injustice that builds mistrust between law-abiding citizens and the police who are sworn to protect them. Only 27 of 92 municipal police departments in Connecticut are in compliance with the state’s racial profiling ban. I am confident that today’s legislation will dramatically increase that number, and ensure that traffic stop information is properly collected and processed,” said Senator Coleman.
Recent studies, including an investigative report by the Hartford Courant, have found that black and Hispanic drivers are much more likely to receive a traffic ticket or citation from police than white drivers.
A US Department of Justice investigation concluded this year that officers of the East Haven Police Department, “intentionally target Latinos for disparate traffic enforcement and treatment because of their race, color, or national origin.”
The 1999 Racial Profiling Prohibition Act, or “Alvin Penn Act,” requires municipal police departments to report traffic stop data to the State of Connecticut on an annual basis, to be analyzed for evidence of racial profiling. Yet according to 2010 data, only 27 of 92 municipal police departments have consistently submitted reports.
Senate Bill 364, approved today in a 31 to 3 vote, will strengthen existing law by transferring responsibility for collection and analysis of traffic stop data from the state’s African American Affairs Commission to the larger and better-staffed Office of Policy and Management and the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board (CJIS).
The two agencies must also create a standardized method to be used by police departments at all traffic stops to collect and convey the following information:
OPM and CJIS must develop guidelines for training of police officers on completion of the standardized forms. A copy of the form must be provided to the vehicle operator at each stop.
Police departments will further be required to provide OPM and the CJIS board with a copy of each received complaint of racial profiling, along with written notification of the review and disposition of such complaint. Departments that do not comply with the stronger reporting requirements may be recommended for a reduction in state funding.
RECORDING OF POLICE ACTIVITY
In a 24 to 11 vote, the Senate also approved a bill that would protect the right of citizens to record police officers in the performance of their public duties. Current law has already established this right, yet there have been recent incidents in which officers harassed, threatened and even arrested citizens who attempted to exercise it.
Senate Bill 245 would allow an individual to bring a cause of action against a police officer who interferes with their attempt to photograph or make a video recording of police activity, provided that the individual was not otherwise interfering with the officer in the performance of their duties.
The bill provides that the officer will not be held liable if they had reasonable grounds to believe their actions were taken in order to:
Senator Coleman said, “Protecting citizens’ ability to record public police activity is a sensible defense of First Amendment rights. Law abiding officers have nothing to hide, but needless prevention of recordings rightly raises public suspicions.”
Vice-Chair: Human Services
Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT 06106-1591
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