The state Senate voted last week to require, though not necessarily compel, Connecticut police officers to inform drivers why they had been pulled over during traffic stops.
The proposal builds on a provision of the state’s Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act, which requires police to record a reason for every traffic stop by additionally requiring them to verbally inform drivers of that reason. It contains no penalties for officers who fail to do so.
The chamber sent the legislation to the House with bipartisan support after a short debate during a session on Thursday evening.
The bill’s proponent, Sen. Herron Gaston, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee, said the change would ensure that Black and brown motorists in Connecticut cities receive the same treatment as drivers in other parts of the state.
“All too often, folks who look like me have indicated that when they’re pulled over by police, they’re not always told why they’re being pulled over and so what this bill, essentially, is going to do is to ensure that law enforcement units all across the state of Connecticut are engaging in the same practice,” Gaston said.
During a public hearing in February, several residents reported incidents in which officers refused to provide a reason for traffic stops. Those drivers said they were surprised and alarmed to learn state law did not require such notification.
In March, the bill prompted debate and opposition from some Republican members who argued that police are already trained to provide the information and that the bill sent the wrong message to the state’s law enforcement community.
That opposition seemed to have evaporated during an eight-minute debate on Thursday night. Sen. Paul Cicarella, R-North Haven, briefly questioned Gaston seemingly in an effort to highlight an absence of punitive provisions within the bill.
“Did anything happen to the officers for violating the policies and procedures of the departments?” Cicarella said.
“Not to my understanding,” Gaston said. “There was no consequences to the officer.”
“With this piece of legislation, if this did happen again, would there be any consequences for the officer if they do not, in fact, tell the motorist why they pulled them over?” Cicarella said.
“No, there will be no consequences to the officer,” Gaston said.
Moments later, the chamber voted unanimously to approve the bill.