A bill introduced in the Colorado State Senate on June 3, SB20-217 Enhanced Law Enforcement Integrity bill has passed the Colorado Senate and has advanced toward the Colorado House.
The bill appears to be on a fast track. Its introduction followed protests on the streets of Denver, including near-riots around the Colorado State Capitol building. Denver police responded with force, including tear-gas, “non-lethal” pellets, and aggressive action against peaceful protestors. The bill’s sponsors include Senator Leroy Garcia, Senator Rhonda Fields, Rep. Leslie Herod, and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez.
It can be viewed in markup form here.
The bill focuses on enhancing the integrity of Colorado law enforcement, includes several elements designed to increase the transparency of police actions in their role” to serve and protect.”
The protests which sparked this action occurred as part of the nationwide protests that have erupted since the May 25 murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police, of George Floyd.
Supporters of the bill say the major protests on the streets of Denver revealed a pattern of violent response and excessive force that has to be addressed.
Among the bill’s key points:
- Requires all local law enforcement agencies to issue body-worn cameras to their officers to be worn at all times when interacting with the public and requires all recordings of an incident be released to the public within 14 days after the incident.
- Requires the division of criminal justice in the department of public safety to create an annual report of the information that is reported to the attorney general, as reported by each state and local agency. Incidents to be reported include death, serious bodily injury, resignations while under investigation, all data related to police stops, and unannounced entry;
- Requires the division of criminal justice to maintain a statewide incident database with data collected in a searchable format and publish the database on its website.
- Sets standards for the discipline of law officers for unlawful use or threatened use of force.
The bill would allow 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, anti-bias action for the violation and clarifies when deadly physical force can be used and specifically prohibits the use of chokeholds of the kind that killed Floyd.
During a conversation with Salida Chief of Police Russ Johnson on Thursday, he said that if and when the bill passes, he may be able to provide comments about the specific points contained in the bill. “Right now it’s changing and we don’t know what will be in the final bill.”
Earlier this week the Salida Police Department (SPD) and the City of Salida put out a statement denouncing excessive use of force in policing. In the June 9 statement “The City of Salida and the Salida Police Department unequivocally condemn the actions of the individuals and the systems that tolerated and enabled the unacceptable cruelty that led to George Floyd’s death.”
It cited its recruitment, training, anti-bias policies, and accreditation efforts as examples of its efforts to work with the community in productive ways. “The City and SPD will continue to have an open dialogue because we value the relationships that we have with our citizens, business owners, civic groups and the education community, and we know by working together we can prevent violence and distrust between law enforcement and the community in which we proudly serve.”