Connecticut police officers would be required to inform drivers why they had been pulled over during traffic stops under legislation given final passage Monday by the House of Representatives.
The chamber sent the proposal to Gov. Ned Lamont on a bipartisan, 110 – 38 vote. The Senate passed it unanimously after a short debate last month.
Rep. Pat Boyd, a Pomfret Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee, said the proposal would codify what is already common practice in most areas of Connecticut and a policy that drivers already assume is the law.
“Many people including myself thought this was already in our state statute,” he said. “So from our point of view and from what the committee’s settled on is that we are looking at what is a common courtesy. I know if I was pulled over I would want to know the reasoning.”
The bill advanced out of the committee following a public hearing where 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. Police testified that they were already trained to provide the information.
At four lines long, the bill simply makes that notification obligatory but contains no penalties for officers who decline to comply. Disciplinary actions will be up to individual departments to mete out, Boyd said.
In the Senate, much of the debate centered on efforts to ensure that motorists of different ethnic and racial backgrounds were treated equitably regardless of where they were driving.
“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,” said Sen. Herron Gaston, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the committee with Boyd.
Monday’s House debate included feedback from several of the current and former police officers who are among the chamber’s members. Rep. Anthony Nolan, a Democrat who retired from the New London Police Department in April, called the proposal a “great bill.”
“We all know that the support for officers is there but it’s the few officers that are out there that are doing wrong that we have to keep accountable,” Nolan said.
Rep. Greg Howard, a Republican and detective with the Stonington Police Department, agreed that officers should be required to supply the information during traffic stops. However, Howard said police were already giving the notifications and believed the legislation risked further demoralizing a law enforcement community already discouraged by recent legislative actions.
“My fear is that the negative effect is the police officers may say, ‘Hey, this is another thing that’s been done to demoralize our profession.’ And I hate to see that,” Howard said. “I will say to any police officer that may be watching, I don’t want to see your profession be demoralized.”
Rep. Michael DiGiovancarlo, a Democrat and Waterbury police officer, said he has found other law enforcement professionals to be receptive to the idea.
“This is not a big ask of law enforcement at all,” he said. “I will be supporting the bill because I think it will just solidify the great job that police officers across Connecticut are doing and will continue to do.”