Rep. Pat Boyd is seen in the Connecticut House of Representatives chamber conversing with another legislator.
State Rep. Patrick Boyd, right, talks to state Rep. Tony Scott Monday evening on June 5. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

A bill that would establish into Connecticut state law a requirement for police officers to inform drivers of the reason for a traffic stop is headed to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 1022, the legislation in question, passed the House on a 110-38 vote Monday. Fifteen Republicans and every Democrat except Rep. Jill Barry of Glastonbury, whose husband is a police officer, green-lighted the proposal, with three lawmakers absent. The Senate’s 36 members unanimously approved the bill last month, which now goes to Gov. Ned Lamont for his signature. 

The legislation requires law enforcement to verbally communicate to drivers the purpose of a stop before it is completed, a diminished version of a bill that originally would have also mandated officers to record data on whether they “informed the operator of such alleged traffic violation or other violation that caused the stop to be made.” 

“It codifies into law … what is already common courtesy out there,” said Rep. Pat Boyd, D-Brooklyn, co-chair of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. “If there are issues with individual officers and their interactions, it will be handled through their own police department and their own policies as with any other interaction that an officer has with the public.”

During public testimony for the bill earlier this year, state residents alluded to racial disparities in traffic stops as a pressing reason to pass the legislation. Out of more than 500,000 traffic stops conducted in 2019, Connecticut’s Black drivers comprised 18% — despite making up only 13% of the state population, a disparity that did not exist for white and Hispanic drivers.

It is unclear how many of the state’s municipalities already require their officers to inform drivers of the reasoning for traffic stops.

By law, officers must already document the statutory reason for stopping a vehicle and use body-worn recording equipment during any interactions with the public. The bill discussed Monday doesn’t outline any consequences for officers who don’t comply with the new statute. 

Despite this, the majority of House Republicans didn’t support the bill, some of whom criticized it for the message they believe it sends to police. 

“Police officers may say, ‘Hey, this is another thing that has been done to demoralize our profession,’ and I hate to see that,” said Rep. Greg Howard, R-Stonington, the top House Republican on the Public Safety and Security Committee. “I’m not going to support the bill because I am concerned with the latter.

“But I will say that any police officer who may listen or be watching that I don’t want to see your profession be demoralized,” said Howard, who, away from his part-time job as a legislator, works as a detective with the Stonington Police Department. 

Other legislators against the bill said they believe it includes good policy but couldn’t overcome how it may make officers feel. 

Michael DiGiovancarlo, D-Waterbury, was one of the few to acknowledge how the bill would serve the public. 

“I think it’s a common situation for most people that when they are stopped by the police, they are automatically nervous,” said DiGiovancarlo, a 17-year veteran in the Waterbury Police Department. “I think it could be a possible calming effect right away if you express to the person, when you can, why you’re stopping them. … I’ve spoken to my chief, I’ve spoken to our union, I’ve spoken to other law enforcement agencies and officers … this is not a big ask of law enforcement at all.”

Ahead of the legislative session’s end on June 7, officials are also considering another traffic-related bill, Senate Bill 1195, which would prohibit law enforcement from stopping motor vehicles for secondary violations, such as failing to illuminate a rear license plate. Both bills, in part, attempt to appease the uneasiness, during interactions with police, felt by state residents.

“When I drive in the state of Connecticut — with or without my family — I would like to drive rooted in confidence that if I’m pulled over by an officer, he or she will notify me of why I am being pulled over,” said Erika Wesley, who described herself as a nonprofit professional, small business owner, author, wife and mother, in this year’s public hearing.

“The lack of disclosure can incite a level of fear, especially in women and teenagers, that is not only unhelpful but can cause the individual to make errors in communication, that can lead to a dangerous situation,” said Wesley, who is Black.

Jaden is CT Mirror's justice reporter. He was previously a summer reporting fellow at The Texas Tribune and interned at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. He received a bachelor's degree in electronic media from Texas State University and a master's degree in investigative journalism from the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University.