Herod, Gonzales-Gutierrez Clarify and Strengthen Historic Police Accountability Law

DENVER, CO– The House Judiciary Committee today advanced Reps. Leslie Herod and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez’s bill to clarify and strengthen certain provisions of SB20-217, the sweeping police accountability reform bill signed into law last year. The bill passed by a vote of 7-4.

“Last year, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and our community’s demands for action, Colorado led the nation by passing a first-of-its-kind bill to end qualified immunity and boldly reform how law enforcement polices our communities,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “Now, one day after a Minneapolis jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts, we’re making improvements to strengthen the law and ensure it is being implemented the way the legislature intended. No single policy or court decision will erase centuries of injustice. Our work must go on.”

“Passing SB20-217 last year was a historic step toward ensuring transparency, integrity and accountability for Colorado’s law enforcement,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales Gutierrez, D-Denver. “In the nine months since the bill became law, we have engaged with our communities on the law’s implementation and found opportunities to clarify language to ensure it is meeting our goals. The work of protecting Black and Brown lives and ensuring law enforcement guarantees justice for all is not a ‘one-and-done’ affair. It requires constant action, upkeep and follow-through.” 

HB21-1250 makes changes to the provisions of law enacted by SB20-217 to provide clarity and strengthen the progress made to date on its implementation. The bill clarifies requirements related to the instances when body-worn cameras must be operating to include welfare checks. It directs the Division of Criminal Justice to create a single form to streamline the reporting requirements for peace officers, which will now include whether an ambulance was called to the scene of an incident, whether there was a forcible entry into a residence, and the number of officer-involved civilian deaths.

Among other provisions, HB21-1250 requires the use of de-escalation techniques prior to the use of physical force and includes a more robust use of force provision informed by nationwide conversations about the modernization of policing that have occured over the last year.

It explicitly outlines a peace officer’s due process rights and allows an administrative law judge to participate in an investigation. The bill defines what it means for a peace officer to be exonerated from a charge of misconduct. It extends the elimination of qualified immunity to the Colorado State Patrol and it prohibits employers from preemptively determining whether a peace officer acted in good faith before such action in question even occurred, closing a loophole in the current law that was taken advantage of by the city of Greenwood Village last year.