MERIDEN, Conn. — The State Senate votes Tuesday on the highly controversial Police Accountability bill, which includes a qualified immunity clause, which has many police officers across the state thinking about retirement.
While the Mayor and Police Chief of Meriden were due to meet with police officers Monday night, to listen to their concerns, a source told FOX61 up to one-third of the department's 123 officers are exploring retirement because of the bill that is expected to pass into law.
"If that (mass retirements) were to happen, it would be troublesome for our department," Meridan Mayor Kevin Scarpati said.
One of the initial areas of concern, in the qualified immunity clause, according to Scarpati, was officers afraid they would lose their pension if they were to be found guilty in a lawsuit.
"Fortunately, that is not included in the bill any longer and is not being discussed," Scarpati said.
"These officers are potentially subject to lawsuits doing their job and may have no protection," said State Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford).
He says officers just don’t believe they’re going to be able to do their job.
"If you can retire, you should," Candelora said. "And I don’t say that lightly. But, this bill is bad."
"I think it’s exceptionally unfortunate how much misinformation is being spread about this bill right now," said State Rep. Steven Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport), who is one of the architects of the Police Accountability bill.
"They (police) have no reason to fear being sued under this bill," said Stafstrom, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
And, even if an officer is sued, he says the municipality must provide them with a lawyer and cover any award.
"So, the only time an officer will face liability, under this bill, is when they willfully and maliciously violate someone’s constitutional rights without a colorable (plausible) claim that they were in compliance with the law when they did it," Stafstrom said.
The qualified immunity piece of the bill would take effect on July 1, 2021. And Candelora believes this provision is being delayed in hopes that it can be fixed during the regular session.
"It’s gonna be too late," Candelora said. "People are already making the decision to retire. You’re gonna lose the good cops."
Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Connecticut) said he will sign the bill into law if, as expected, it passes the senate.