- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut would provide money to towns and cities to equip police officers with body cameras under bipartisan legislation that passed unanimously in the state Senate on Tuesday.

The House has until the close of the session Wednesday night to take up the bill, which would make $13 million in state grants available to municipalities over the next two years to purchase the body cameras and store the recorded data for up to a year.

“This is a proactive measure to address the serious issue of excessive force while simultaneously protecting officers from false claims of abuse,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.

The bill mandates officers undergo more cultural sensitivity training and more training in the appropriate use of physical force. It also expands the use of special prosecutors to investigate allegations of excessive force and allows for civil penalties against police departments when officers interfere with anyone taking pictures or videos of them at work.

“For too long, law enforcement and the citizens they protect have stood apart,” said Sen. Coleman, D-Bloomfield, the Senate chairman of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee. “This bill begins to build a bridge so we can finally improve relationships between police and their communities.”

David McGuire, the legislative and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said the reform package is unprecedented in the nation and “sends a powerful message that police accountability and transparency is a priority” in Connecticut.

He said police departments have always cited cost as the main reason for not deploying body cameras.

“That excuse no longer exists if this bill is passed by the House and signed by the governor,” he said.

The bill exempts police departments from having to release some of the body camera footage to the public, including recordings of domestic or sexual abuse situations and recordings of a victim of homicide or suicide.

McGuire said there is some concern that police could use that language to withhold videos in fatal police shootings, but said that is clearly not the intent of the legislation.

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