Attorney General William Tong declined Monday to issue a legal opinion on the constitutionality of a new inspector general position in a landmark police accountability bill expected to be debated Tuesday in the state Senate.
But following an informal review, Tong said he is comfortable that the legislation does not violate the state constitution.
Tong, a Democrat, said he has “serious reservations” about providing a formal opinion on a matter that’s the subject of active debate in the legislature. The House of Representatives passed the bill early Friday morning on a mostly party-line vote after nearly eight hours of often emotional debate.
Tong also said he cannot issue an opinion on a complex constitutional question so quickly. Len Fasano, the Republican leader in the state Senate, requested the ruling on Friday, following the House vote. Chief State’s Attorney Richard J. Colangelo hsd also raised concerns about the inspector general’s position.
While Tong did not provide a formal opinion, he did review Fasano’s concerns and said he would defend the provisions of the bill should it be approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont.
The police accountability bill was crafted following the national outcry over the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, Minnesota after a white police man knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The bill has a number of provisions, including overhauling training, banning chokeholds in almost all instances, require body cameras for all officers for the first time and make it easier for citizens to sue individual police officers in state court.
It was the creation of the inspector general’s post that drew concern from Fasano. “I understand the proponents of this bill had the best intentions in developing this section,‘' he said. “However, the language ultimately included in the bill related to the creation of the inspector general was rushed and contains elements that conflict with the state Constitution.”
Daniela Altimari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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