2023 Legislative Session Police Issues Wrap-Up

Council 4 members and the political staff accomplished a lot during the Connecticut General Assembly's most recent legislative session, which ended June 7. Members submitted ideas that were submitted as bills to try and improve officer working conditions. Council 4 officers testified and submitted testimony in favor of and against bills. We were also able to shift the conversation to show the importance and benefit of officers. This is an update on some of the most significant bills.

  • A voice for rank-and-file police officers in POSTCouncil 4 working in concert with POACT (the Police Officer Association of CT) was able to pass a bill that adds two rank and file officers to POST. This will be the first time that the average officer’s voice will be represented in decertification actions.  

  • Police officer recruitment and retention study passed: We were able to pass a bill creating a study of police officer recruitment and retention.  The study, with legislative and gubernatorial appointments, is to report recommendations to the legislature in January. 
  • Shielded municipal police officer motor vehicle qualified immunity: Last year the powerful trial lawyer lobby passed a bill that opened the door to making municipal employees personally liable for accidents while driving municipal equipment.  Council 4 was able to get Governor Lamont to veto Senate Bill (S.B.) 204.  This year we were able to add language to a bill that lends protection to a municipal employee operating emergency vehicles.
  • Bill to weaken SROs position was stopped:  We helped defeat an effort to abolish SROs in 2021.  The same advocates tried to pass a bill this year that would allow for non-police officer SROs.  This bill failed. 
  • Stabilizing and strengthening the CMERS pension: A compromise was reached with the CT Conference of Municipalities (CCM), the Council of Small Towns (COST), legislative leaders of both political parties and the governor to stabilize the CMERS pension system.  Like all compromises there are parts that are more and less favorable.  CMERS will be reamortized to close a $1 billion shortfall.  The COLA will be adjusted on a sliding scale beginning in July, 2025 slightly reducing the COLA from its current guaranteed 2%.  The COLA will be raised in high inflation years from its current 6% to a new 7% level.  The changes in the bill should ward off bad ideas such as prohibiting overtime pay from being included in pension calculation (we have killed four bills that would create such a prohibition over the last three years).  The changes should reduce the management donation enough to allow for increasing the active membership of CMERS.  Increasing CMERS membership will make this pension more stable for the long run.
  • Municipal grants$63 million in municipal grants was added above last year’s state budget allotment.  Hopefully, this will help our members gain in pay, retirement and healthcare at the bargaining table.

Bills that did not pass

Along with wins come some disappointments.  Very few bills pass the first year that they are introduced.  Most take years of effort to pass.  We advanced many new ideas this year that did not become law.  It will be advisable to keep trying with many of these:

  • Mandating that all municipal police officers must have pensions:  We were able to advance the idea that all police officers should receive pensions.  While we were unable to pass the bill, we were able to gain legislative support for the idea and put pressure on mayors and town managers to provide pensions.

  • Fixing the PTSD workers compensation qualifications:  The current test to qualify for PTSD workers compensation is foolishly stringent.  A Connecticut municipal officer who justifiably shot an armed suspect and then administered life saving first aid to the suspect, was turned down for a PTSD workers’ compensation request.  This defies common sense and any standard of fairness. 

  • Stopping life insurance companies from discriminating against police officers:  An officer was turned down when he sought court ordered life insurance (part of a divorce decree).  This officer was turned down by multiple insurers because he has sought PTSD treatment.  Such discrimination should be outlawed.  We advanced a bill through the legislature’s Insurance Committee and the state senate.  The powerful corporate insurance lobby was able to block the bill from a House vote.  

  • Providing the family of an officer killed in the line of duty with better state compensation:  Massachusetts provides such officers’ survivors with higher compensation than Connecticut does.  We should at least match our neighboring state with a $300,000 compensation grant.   

  • Hardening police cars:  Similar to a bill introduced in Michigan, this bill called for studying if police cars can be made more bullet proof and resistant to ambush attacks.