- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 12, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut State Police Union is asking a federal judge to declare parts of the state’s new police accountability law unconstitutional, saying sections pertaining to the public disclosure of troopers’ personnel files and internal affairs investigations violate their contract.

The union announced the move Wednesday, saying it had filed for an injunction in U.S. District Court that would force state officials to comply with the contract.

Also Wednesday, more than 850 State Police Union members began a symbolic vote on whether to express no confidence in Gov. Ned Lamont, state public safety Commissioner James Rovella and state police Lt. Col. J. Scott Eckersley for failing to speak out on behalf of troopers against portions of the reform law.

The law, signed by Lamont on July 31 after legislative approval, would strip away exemptions to state Freedom of Information laws in the state police contract. The 2018-2022 contract says troopers’ personnel files and documents in internal affairs investigations that end in findings of exoneration, unfounded or not sustained are not subject to those record disclosure laws.

Andrew Matthews, a former trooper who is now executive director of the State Police Union, said lawmakers and Lamont violated the U.S. Constitution’s contract clause, and other state employees should now be worried that their contracts could be changed unilaterally.



“They have an obligation to honor their agreement,” Matthews said. “They just stripped it from us. What’s really offensive is they didn’t call us, sit down and negotiate.”

Brian Foley, a top aide to Rovella, responded, “This is basically a lawsuit against the police accountability bill and new public act. There will be a legal process to work through and we will respect that.”

Attorney General William Tong’s office said in a statement that it is reviewing the union’s court filing and will respond in court.

Max Reiss, a spokesperson for Lamont, declined to comment on the troopers’ legal complaint and the no-confidence vote.

Lawmakers have said they may revisit parts of the new police reform law and may make changes if there are major issues that need to be addressed.

The public record exemptions in the state police contract were an issue of debate before the agreement was approved by lawmakers last year.

At the time, Colleen Murphy, executive director of the state Freedom of Information Commission, said the contract language could be interpreted in a way that would ban the release of any information from troopers’ files, keeping secret the results of misconduct investigations and discipline imposed on troopers. Matthews responded that was not the intent of the language.

A week before Lamont signed the new police accountability law, hundreds of police officers rallied at the Capitol to protest the bill, saying they felt betrayed by lawmakers and unfairly blamed for the actions of police in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died after a police officer pressed on his neck for several minutes.

The law, which proponents said answers the calls for reform after the police killings of Floyd and other Black people, creates a new inspector general to investigate police use-of-force cases, limits circumstances in which deadly use of force can be justified and allows more civilian oversight of police departments.

It also allows civil lawsuits in state courts against officers by people whose constitutional rights were violated by police, if those actions were deemed “malicious, wanton or willful.”

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