Rebuilding Trust

(March 17) – After months of preparation and work with community groups and law enforcement agencies, Rep. Angela Williams and other House Democratic sponsors introduced a bipartisan package of 10 bills to rebuild trust between Colorado communities and their law enforcement agencies.

Rep. Williams, D-Denver, has been coordinating legislative efforts regarding police-community relations since late 2014.

The bills come amid a local and national outcry reacting to a spate of incidents across the country. But as Rep. Williams put it, “our state, unfortunately, has had its own well-publicized problems.”

“Our goal is to rebuild trust,” she said. “Our goal is to close the confidence gap that now exists between some law enforcement agencies and their local communities. Our goal is to build public confidence in our police officers, and to build police officers’ confidence that they are supported by the communities they are sworn to serve.”

Most components of the package are supported by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the County Sheriffs of Colorado. Six of the bills have Republican sponsorship, notably including Sen. John Cooke, a former Weld County sheriff.

Here are the 10 bills:

Citizen’s Rights to Record: Reps. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, and Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo
Guarantees a person’s right to film any incident involving a police officer. If an officer seizes or destroys a recording without consent or a warrant, or if the officer interferes with the recording or retaliates against the person making the recording, that person is entitled to damages and a civil penalty of $15,000.

Criminal Charges Based Upon Unlawful Order: Reps. Salazar and Justin Everett, R-Littleton
Requires a court to dismiss all charges against a defendant that were based on a violation of an unlawful order. The court may also order the agency that filed the charges to reimburse the defendant for attorney’s fees.

Transparency After Officer-Involved Shootings: Sens. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and John Cooke, R-Greeley/Rep. Salazar
Requires law enforcement agencies to develop protocols for involving other law enforcement agencies in the investigation of a peace officer involved shooting. Also requires a district attorney who declines to file criminal charges against a peace officer in a peace officer involved shooting to make a written public disclosure of their findings that were the basis for not charging the officer.

Appointment of Special Prosecutors: Reps. Salazar & Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village
For an alleged offense involving police misconduct resulting in serious bodily injury or death, this bill allows the court to require prosecution if a court finds that a decision not to prosecute was an abuse of discretion.

Widespread Use of Body Cameras: Rep. Kagan/Sen. Cooke
Creates a grant program for law enforcement agencies to purchase body cameras and to train law enforcement officers in their use. Also establishes a study group to study policies and best practices on the use of body cameras and to develop those policies for law enforcement agencies.

Prohibiting Profiling: Rep. Williams/Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora
Adds new categories – age, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation — to the categories of profiling that law enforcement officers are forbidden to engage in. Under the bill, evidence obtained via profiling will be inadmissible in court.

Police Training Improvements: Rep. Williams/Sen. Cooke
Expands the Peace Officer’s Standards and Training board from 20 to 24 members. It also expands the POST board’s duties to include completing a review and evaluation of the basic academy curriculum and establishing subject matter expertise committees to develop skills training programs, academic curriculums, and POST board rules. Duties also include the development of a community outreach program and development of a recruitment program that creates a diversified applicant pool. The bill also requires the POST board to include anti-bias, community policing and de-escalation courses in regular in-service training.

Data Collection After Officer-Involved Shootings: Sens. Roberts and Cooke/Rep. Williams
Requires that after an officer involved shooting occurs, the peace officer’s law enforcement agency provide the division of criminal justice with demographic information on the officer and individual shot and search, citation, and arrest information related to the incident. Colorado law enforcement agencies will provide this information for all shootings that occurred between 2010 and 2015, and for each successive year until 2020.

Disclosure of Misrepresentations by Peace Officers: Sens. Roberts and Cooke/Rep. Williams
Requires a state or local law enforcement agency that formerly employed a peace officer who applies for employment to another Colorado agency to disclose to the hiring agency information indicating whether the officer’s employment history included any instances in which the officer made a knowing misrepresentation.

Prohibiting Use of Chokehold: Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora
Prohibits police officers from using a chokehold, except to save their own lives

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