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Police ‘Accountability’ Legislation Deserved Better

Posted on July 24, 2020 by Greg MacKinnon


To the Editor,

At 1:30 a.m. most people are in bed, asleep, resting for the next day. The Speaker of the House decided that was a good time to call one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year – the police ‘accountability’ bill.

As outrageous as that may sound, it is even more illogical that the bill language was not made available to legislators or the public until a few minutes before the debate started. Understanding the unique set of circumstances created by the COVID-19 outbreak, some changes to the normal operating procedures of the legislature are to be expected. However, beginning debate at such a late hour is not reasonable.

Providing greater resources to our law enforcement officers, holding everyone equally accountable for their actions, and examining police oversight were all topics I looked forward to talking about and supporting. Unfortunately, that’s not what the motivations were behind this bill.

The public had little to no opportunity to weigh-in on the bill language. Despite a remote listening session being held, there was not a full legislative vetting process of the proposed legislation. When concerns were raised, the other side of the aisle was unwilling to improve the bill language.

I proudly supported an amendment that would have removed the qualified immunity stipulation within the underlying bill language. This amendment failed as a result of a tie vote, 72 – 72. Ultimately, this places municipalities and police departments at far greater risk to pay for more robust insurance policies.

Further, the bill is riddled with unfunded mandates that towns across the state will have to figure out how to pay for. Municipalities will be responsible to pay up to 50% for new body cameras and will be fully responsible to foot the bill for data storage, additional drug and health screenings, and accreditation fees.

Rushing this important of a topic undercuts the whole conversation of racial injustice. Supporting this bill does not help keep bad actors out of the law enforcement system but guarantees that police departments across the state will have less resources to protect and serve.

I look forward to addressing meaningful reform in the future.

Jay Case