Police Accountability Bill Passes First House Hurdle

DENVER, CO – The House Committee on Finance today passed Representative Leslie Herod and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez’s bill to ensure transparency, integrity, and accountability of Colorado’s law enforcement, and to finally make justice possible for victims of police brutality. The bill passed by a vote of 7-4. 

“Today we’re honoring the memories of victims of police brutality in Colorado and around the country with decisive action,” said Rep. Herod, D-Denver. “This bill will make a real difference in our state and will set an example for the rest of the country. I want Black Lives Matter protestors here in Colorado and across the country to see this as a clear example of how much can get done when you make your voice heard. This bill is about accountability, integrity, transparency and justice, and I’m proud to see it move forward today.”

“This bill represents a historic step forward for Colorado, and I couldn’t be prouder to sponsor it,” said Rep. Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “Ending qualified immunity, reining in the use of force, and ensuring greater accountability and transparency in our law enforcement will go a long way towards ensuring true justice for all. Black and brown Coloradans deserve to feel safe in their communities and truly protected by their law enforcement. There’s nothing new about this effort: SB20-217 represents a bold step forward in a generations-long fight against injustice in Colorado.”

SB20-217, the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act, would enact several provisions to prevent police brutality and increase transparency and accountability in our law enforcement. Among these provisions are the following: 

  • Mandate body cameras. The bill requires officers to wear body cameras and record interactions with members of the public with potential for enforcement, and for footage of an incident of misconduct to be released to the public within 21 days. The bill includes privacy provisions for victims, witnesses, and juveniles, or when footage contains highly personal circumstances such as nudity, and it ensures the victim of the officer misconduct and the victim’s family receive the footage 24 hours prior to public release.
  • Require public reporting on policing. All law enforcement agencies would be required to track and publicly report data for any contacts they initiate for law enforcement purposes. That data would include any use of force (both the type and severity), civilian searches, forced entries into homes, the unholstering and discharge of a firearm, and demographic information on race, ethnicity, sex and age of the person contacted.
  • Rein in use of deadly force by officers. It would bring Colorado law in line with Supreme Court precedent holding that an officer may only use deadly force, including on people who are fleeing the police, when there is an imminent risk of danger to human life. It also repeals an officer’s authority to use dangerous tactics like the chokehold.
  • Prevent the rehiring of bad actors. If an officer is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, any inappropriate use of physical force, their POST certification would be revoked. Officers who are found untruthful, terminated for cause, or decertified would be listed in a public database to prevent them from moving from one agency to another.
  • Hold individual officers liable for their actions. It would allow victims of police misconduct to bring a lawsuit for the violation of their constitutional rights within a two-year statute of limitations, and officers convicted of misconduct would no longer be shielded by the doctrine of qualified immunity. It would also hold officers accountable for failing to intervene during another officer’s inappropriate use of physical force.
  • Restricts the use of chemical agents and projectiles. In light of incidents at recent protests, this bill would prohibit law enforcement officers from using tear gas without first verbalizing orders to disperse a crowd and allowing individuals adequate time to comply. The bill prohibits officers from targeting rubber bullets at someone’s head, torso, or back.