Contact: Adam Joseph
April 19, 2012
Legislative leaders joined with Father James Manship, Pastor of Saint Rose de Lima Church of New Haven to announce that the state Senate will vote on two bills today—one aimed at protecting a citizen’s right to record police officers—the other, strengthening Connecticut’s racial profiling law.
There have been numerous incidents throughout the nation in which citizens have been harassed, threatened and arrested for recording what would seem to be public action by police officers. In Connecticut, citizens have the right to record police officers as they exercise their public duties. There have been recent incidents in which officers harassed and threatened citizens who were attempting to exercise this right.
“In Connecticut, citizens have a right to record police officers,” said Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D—New Haven). “However, there have been recent incidents in which officers harassed and arrested citizens who were attempting to exercise this right. I believe that creating a possible cause of action against officers who attempt to intimidate citizens in this manner would serve as a deterrent to this behavior.”
Senate Bill 245, An Act Concerning The Recording of Police Activity by the Public, would allow a person to bring a cause of action against a peace officer who interferes with the person taking a photographic or video image provided that the individual was not otherwise interfering with the officer in the performance of duty.
The law provides that the peace officer will not be liable if the officer had reasonable grounds to believe that his/her actions were taken in order to:
“Any officers performing their duties in accordance with their training and the law should welcome the recording of their activities by the public,” said Father Manship. “Transparency enforces trust. I support this bill.”
In February 2009 Father Manship was falsely arrested by East Haven police officers while videotaping officers harassing Latino business owners. In January the FBI arrested four East Haven police officers on charges including multiple counts of excessive force, false arrest, obstruction and conspiracy as part of an investigation into alleged profiling and mistreatment of Latino residents.
Legislative leaders are also poised vote on a bill that would strengthen the state’s enforcement of its racial profiling reporting law. Recent studies have found that police are tougher on minority drivers during traffic stops with findings indicating that during traffic stops, black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to receive a ticket or citation than white drivers.
Senate Bill 364 An Act Concerning Traffic Stop Information strengthens reporting requirements and requires the Office of Policy and Management and the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board (CJIS) to develop a standardized form to be used by police departments to collect the following information:
Furthermore, the bill requires police officers to use the form when a traffic stop is made and provide a copy of the completed form to the vehicle operator and requires police departments to report the traffic stop data to OPM on a standardized form.
Police departments will also be required to provide to OPM and the CJIS board a copy of each complaint received and written notification of the review and disposition of such complaint.
As part of the bill OPM and the CJIS board will adopt guidelines to train officers to complete the traffic stop forms and evaluate the information collected for counseling and officer training. Departments that do not comply with the stronger reporting requirements will risk losing state funds.
“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 Eric Coleman (D-Bloomfield). “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.”
“Racial profiling can not and should not be tolerated in our state,” said Senate President Donald E. Williams (D—Brooklyn). “It violates fundamental rights of fairness and equality. It diminishes trust between law enforcement and affected communities and it diverts limited law enforcement resources away from finding actual criminal and national security threats.”
"For far too long the state’s racial profiling laws have gone unenforced. Police departments are required to report their traffic stop data to the state, in order to detect incidents of racial profiling, but too many have failed to do so. Today’s bill will increase compliance with the existing racial profiling ban. Civil rights are too important for this issue to remain unaddressed,” said Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford).
“Studies have shown that Latino drivers suffer the most from racial profiling, and we have seen this documented in East Haven. But make no mistake, racial profiling occurs in many other places in our state, even if victims are the only ones who speak about it. We will not tolerate racial profiling in any of our communities. It is already illegal, and I hope this bill will ensure the ban is finally enforced,” said Senator John Fonfara (D-Hartford).
“When a police officer stops a car just because of the color of the driver’s skin, it destroys trust in the law for that driver, their family and friends. The officer is also distracted from their real duty: confronting actual criminal threats. My predecessor Alvin Penn passed a law to ban racial profiling, but too many police departments have ignored it. Today’s bill should make them take notice, and the separate legislation protecting people’s right to record police activity will provide some accountability,” said Senator Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport).
(for both senators)
Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT 06106-1591
See more news releases by Senator Williams.
See more news releases by Senator Looney.