HARTFORD, CT —A subcommittee of the Police Transparency and Accountability Task Force will be working to explain the impact of the qualified immunity portion of the legislation signed into law last week by Gov. Ned Lamont.
Under the qualified immunity portion of the law, municipalities would continue to cover the liability of police officers under most scenarios. Only if an officer performed a “malicious, wanton or wilful act,” would they not be covered under municipal liability policies.
Former state Rep. Ken Green, a member of the subcommittee, suggested that they invite a member of the police and a member of an insurance company to come and explain what type of insurance products are on the market for police officers.
Melvin Medina, public policy director of the ACLU of Connecticut, said he understands that police officers are concerned about losing their homes, but what the conversation boils down to is “what is the value of a life.”
He said the subcommittee needs to understand what type of insurance products are on the market and what it actually means for officers and municipalities. He said they need to clarify under what scenario an officer could lose their home.
He suggested they invite the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Council of Small Towns to their next meeting to explain.
Insurance industry experts say there’s no product currently on the market that an officer can individually purchase to insure themselves for situations where they could be accused of misconduct. There are products, however, that can be purchased by municipalities for multiple officers.
At least one member of the subcommittee said the provision will offer few consequences for police officers.
“Police are still going to shoot and kill unarmed black men,” Shafiq Abdussabur, a retired New Haven Police officer, said. “They’re going to shoot and kill unarmed Hispanic and Latino men. They’re going to shoot and kill people.”
He said that goes along with the training and there are 107 police departments in Connecticut, who all have a different “use of force” policy.
Cheryl Sharp, deputy director of the Connecticut Human Rights Commission, said qualified immunity and whether or not officers act outside of the scope of their employment is not going to solve all the issues of disparities that exist in policing.
Sharp said they have racial systems in place and they need to dismantle the structural racism that creates the disparate impact on Black and brown communities.
“The real issue is the structural racism that exists in our society,” Sharp said. “Until we deal with that issue the policing that occurs is going to have some bad apples, but you also have a system that is designed to perpetuate the racism that people have complained about.”
Sharp said the training is not taking civil rights into account because the people who are the experts on civil rights are not at the table. She said they have to understand qualified immunity and what the courts have done since it was a judicial construct.
“Is there insurance available? Because now we’re asking police officers to have malpractice insurance like attorneys do,” Sharp said.
The subcommittee has until Dec. 31 to report its findings to the General Assembly.