5 things to know about CT police accountability law

New police accountability laws go into effect in Connecticut on Thursday, Oct. 1.

New police accountability laws go into effect in Connecticut on Thursday, Oct. 1.

John Shapley /Staff photographer

Several key provisions of Connecticut's sweeping police accountability law, signed in the wake of national protests against racial injustice and police brutality over the summer, go into effect Thursday.

Among the new rules that take effect are tighter restrictions on police searches, a duty to intervene if police witness another officer use excessive force and penalties for civilians who call in an incident based on race.

Other changes to policing brought by the law, including adjustments to qualified immunity that protect police from lawsuits over their conduct and further restrictions on the use of deadly force, go into effect next year.

Here's a closer look at the changes taking effect on Thursday:

Cops can no longer ask to search a car during traffic stops

As of Thursday, the law prohibits police from asking motorists for permission to search their car during routine traffic stops.

Under the law, police must have some other probable cause to search a car, or “unsolicited consent” during the stop.

Police will also not be allowed to ask for more than the driver’s license, insurance and registration or “other documentation or identification directly related to the stop” when the motor vehicle violation is the only reason for the stop, according to the law.

A similar section bans police from searching a person — in other words, patting the individual down — based solely on the person’s consent without other probable cause. That section also goes into effect Thursday.

Duty to intervene if police witness excessive force

Starting Thursday, police who witness another officer employing an “unreasonable, excessive or illegal” use of force will be required by law to intervene and report the incident.

Police who fail to do so can be charged with the same acts of excessive force themselves.The rule does not apply to police who are operating undercover when they witness the excessive force.

The section also bans departments from taking retaliatory action against police who report that behavior.

The new rule was added after video of George Floyd’s arrest showed several officers watching while Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the back of the man’s neck for several minutes during his arrest.

Chauvin was later charged with second-degree murder. The three other officers, Thomas Lane, Alex Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

False reporting based on race

Falsely reporting a crime is already against the law in Connecticut.But as of Thursday, reporting a false crime on a person or group because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity is now considered a felony, as opposed to a class-A misdemeanor.

No security guard licenses for de-certified cops

Starting Thursday, those who have lost their state certification to be a police officer will not be allowed to obtain the license needed to a work as a security guard.The law already bars felons from earning a security guard license, along with anyone convicted of morally depraved crimes or dishonorably discharged from the military.

Independent review of deadly force

As of Thursday, the state’s Criminal Justice Commission is required to appoint a deputy chief state's attorney as an inspector general charged with investigating any use of fatal force by police.

If a killing at the hands of an officer is found not to be justified or did not intervene when they were required to, that inspector general will be in charge of prosecuting the officer involved under the new law.

That official will also be in charge of “censure and suspension, renewal, cancellation or revocation of a peace officer's certification,” according to the law.