As of July 1st of this year, a handful of new laws are officially on the books in Connecticut. In addition to those passed during this most recent legislative session – including the abortion safe haven law and new rules on solitary confinement – a section of the 2020 Police Accountability Act has also gone into effect this month.
Under the act, as of July 1st, anyone who “performs police duties” will be required to use a body-worn camera. All police patrol vehicles must also now be outfitted with dashboard cameras.
The act also expands existing rules for recordings to include dashboard cameras. Law enforcement officers will not be permitted to edit, erase, copy, or share recordings from bodycams and dashcams, except where they are required by law. Officers will be allowed to use recordings to help prepare reports.
This is the latest in a series of new provisions aimed at increasing trust and transparency in the state’s various law enforcement agencies following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The act also created an Office of the Inspector General to investigate accusations of misconduct, restricted the use of certain physical restraint techniques, and updated police training requirements, among other provisions.
“These reforms are focused on bringing real change to end the systemic discrimination that exists in our criminal justice and policing systems that have impacted minority communities for far too long,” Governor Lamont said in a statement at the time.
Whether body-worn cameras actually contribute to better policing is still very much up in the air. According to the Department of Justice, a series of studies have found no definitive proof that the devices cut back on police use of force or civilian harm or complaints. In some cases, researchers found that the cameras had no effect. In a few, including Las Vegas, there was some decrease in police use of force. In Phoenix, however, it had the opposite effect.
While body-worn and dashboard cameras may not guarantee a decrease in incidents of police brutality, publicly available video of those incidents does seem to have some effect on social awareness. Viral videos of the deaths of Philando Castille (also in Minnesota), Eric Garner in New York, and even Rodney King in Los Angeles in the 1990s, have led to public outcry and increased calls for accountability, even if improvements are incremental.
All of this, meanwhile, comes as Connecticut enters the policing discussion, following an incident in New Haven last month. On June 18th, Richard “Randy” Cox was paralyzed while in the custody of New Haven police. Video of the incident was released last week and the officers involved have been placed on leave.