News and Commentary

Major Police Reform Passes In Colorado; Headed To Governor To Sign
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On Saturday, the Colorado state legislature passed a massive police reform package, which will go to Democratic Governor Jared Polis to sign.

The legislation, SB20-217 “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity,” proposes several key reforms, according to the bill summary.

Beginning in mid-2023, “all local law enforcement agencies and the Colorado state patrol to issue body-worn cameras to their officers and requires all recordings of an incident be released to the public within 21 days after the local law enforcement agency or Colorado state patrol receives a complaint of misconduct,” states the summary.

Exceptions to body-cam usage include undercover work, as well as “to avoid recording personal information that is not case related,” among others. Additionally, there will be penalties for “failing to activate” a body-cam.

In protest situations, officers cannot shoot “kinetic impact projectiles” at a civilian’s “head, pelvis, or back,” or send them “indiscriminately into a crowd.” Additionally, they cannot employ chemical irritants unless a warning has been made clear and time has been provided for the protesters to leave.

The bill “allows a person who has a constitutional right secured by the bill of rights of the Colorado constitution that is infringed upon by a peace officer to bring a civil action for the violation.” The summary notes that “qualified immunity is not a defense to the civil action.”

If an “officer is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a crime involving the unlawful use or threatened use of physical force, the P.O.S.T. board shall permanently revoke the peace officer’s certification.” The P.O.S.T. (Peace Officer Standards and Training) board cannot reverse the decertification unless the officer is “exonerated by a court.”

Chokeholds will be prohibited. Officers will also need a “legal basis for making a contact,” and the rules surrounding the “use of deadly force” will be altered, according to the summary.

Perhaps the most inventive part of the legislation “requires a peace officer to intervene when another officer is using unlawful physical force and requires the intervening officer to file a report regarding the incident.”

A punishment for failing to intervene when necessary is a decertification from P.O.S.T.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Governor Polis said of the passage of the bill:

I commend the sponsors and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their efforts to pass this landmark reform bill. This is about a pattern of injustice and unfair treatment that Black Americans and communities of color have endured, not only in our criminal justice system but also in aspects of every day life.

Coloradans should be proud our state is leading the way to make policing more accountable, restore trust in law enforcement, uphold an individual’s civil liberties, and lay the groundwork for future discussions of criminal and juvenile justice reform.

“I am honored to be here at this moment of time, alongside so many passionate Coloradans on the journey towards a more equal, more just, and more peaceful society as I sign SB20-217 when it reaches my desk,” Polis concluded.

The issue of police reform has gained traction across the country in the aftermath of the killing of 46-year-old African American man George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for nearly nine minutes.

Following Floyd’s killing, protests broke out in major American cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and Minneapolis. Unfortunately, the protests also led to rioting and looting, which has destroyed numerous small businesses and other stores.

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