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Candidate for U.S. Congress says accountability act example of bad legislation

The Police Accountability Act (HB 6004) has been passed by the Connecticut state legislature. This is a rushed piece of legislation that was acted upon with almost no input, or consideration, from the law enforcement community. This legislation will profoundly change the way the Connecticut State Police, Department of Corrections and local police departments operate. There are some training aspects and provisions that are not bad within HB 6004, but frankly, if you know the high level of professionalism within Connecticut law enforcement, you understand that those aspects are superficial.

Adding additional civil liabilities is concerning. It sounds great to say “good cops” have nothing to worry about, but this is never true. Unless you are doing police duties and putting your life on the line, you will never be making the split second, life and death, decisions that law enforcement personnel must make. Fighting for your life, or someone else’s, or trying to figure out how to get a person to comply before a situation gets out of control, or a crowd gets unruly, is not easy.

Saying “good police” have nothing to worry about, is as realistic as saying if everyone complied with the police, there would no issues. That is not how the real world works. We are going down a dangerous path that will push away some of the most qualified law enforcement the country has ever employed. That’s right. The best in the country!

Let’s look at this from a law enforcement perspective. How long will it be before criminals begin to file frivolous lawsuits against officers, who are simply following the letter of the law? When a person is clearly in the wrong; what stops them from filing a civil suit? How many cases will be filed in an attempt to prove an officer’s action were malicious, wanton or willful? Criminals have nothing to lose when they attempt to prove an officer was not acting in good faith, while administering his or her duties.

I am a retired correctional officer, who has watched many frivolous lawsuits placed upon the correctional staff and facilities of this state. Nationwide, lawsuits were such a problem that in 1995 there was strong bipartisan support in Congress for the Prison Litigation Reform Act. This act was meant to slow down the endless litigation against the prison systems based on the conditions of the facility or the conditions of their confinement. One of the most important aspects of PLRA was the strict exhaustion requirement, which forced inmates to exhaust all administrative remedies within a facility, before a lawsuit could be filed.

The point here is that criminals often file lawsuits simply because they can. Sometimes there are legitimate complaints that have not been addressed by an administration, but which need to be addressed. More often, baseless cases overload the courts and the ability of the courts to handle legitimate litigation is impeded.

Politicians must be prepared for the lawsuits that will surely follow. Lawsuits are stressful, and they are lengthy to resolve. Officers will spend years fighting these lawsuits and some officers will ultimately be held financially responsible for attempting to uphold the law. The only result from this will be seasoned, qualified and well-trained personnel retiring or simply walking away from an already stressful career.

Justin Anderson is seeking the Republican nomination for the Second Congressional District in the Aug. 11 primary. The Day offered both candidates the opportunity to submit commentaries in advance of the primary. The commentary of party endorsed candidate Tom Gilmer appeared Aug. 2 and is available on theday.com.

 

 

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