DENVER, CO — The Colorado House passed a police reform and accountability bill Friday amid nationwide protests against the death of George Floyd. The measure will now head to Gov. Jared Polis for approval.
The House voted 52-13 to pass Senate Bill 217, which would increase accountability and transparency within Colorado’s law enforcement system.
The families of Elijah McClain and De’Von Bailey were in the gallery during the vote after testifying at committee hearings for the measure.
The bill aims to strengthen the criminal legal standard for police officers who use excessive force. The measure explicitly outlaws the chokehold and protects protesters from police violence.
The bill would also remove the shield of immunity for prosecution from law enforcement found to have acted unlawfully, allowing officers to be sued individually.
The bill will require all law enforcement to use body cameras and to collect and report data on those who are stopped and searched.
SB20-217 – Law Enforcement Integrity Act provisions:
- Mandate body cameras, make videos of police misconduct publicly available, and hold officers accountable when they fail to record. Officers will have to record interactions with the public and, when they turn off their camera, they will be held accountable. When officers are accused of misconduct, the body cam footage must be released to the public within 21 days and ensures the victim of the officer misconduct and the victim’s family receive the footage 72 hours prior to public release.
- Require data collection and public reporting on policing. All law enforcement agencies will be required to track the demographic data of individuals they encounter. This data will include any use of force (both the type and severity), civilian searches, forced entries into homes, and the unholstering and discharge of a firearm.
- Rein in use of deadly force by officers. Changes use of force standard to (1) outlaw chokeholds; (2) outlaw deadly force against someone fleeing the police who does not pose an immediate risk; (3) outlaw the use of deadly force to arrest people for minor offenses and non-violent offenses; and (3) require officers to use non-violent means before resorting to any force.
- Require Officers to Intervene to Stop Excessive Force. It creates a duty for officers to intervene and stop excessive force and makes failure to intervene by an officer a criminal offense.
- Decertify officers who use unlawful force. If a court or internal investigations finds that an officer used unlawful force or officer is convicted of a violent offense, tampered with body camera footage to cover up misconduct, or failed to intervene to stop unlawful use of force that results in serious bodily injury or death, the officer will lose POST certification, thus stopping bad police officers from continuing to put the public at risk.
- Public Database to Prevent Rehiring of bad officers. Officers who are found untruthful, terminated for cause, or decertified would be listed in a publicly-available database to prevent them from moving from one agency to another.
- Justice for Victims of Police Violence by Ending Qualified Immunity. The bills allow victims of police misconduct to bring a lawsuit for the violation of their constitutional rights. Officers found liable will no longer be shielded by the doctrine of qualified immunity which has served to protect bad officers from accountability and denied justice to victims.
- Protect protesters from police use of tear gas and projectiles. In response to incidents at recent protests, this bill prohibits law enforcement officers from shooting rubber bullets indiscriminately into a crowd and prohibits targeting rubber bullets at someone’s head, torso, or back. It also prohibits using tear gas without first warning the crowd and giving people time and a route to disperse.
The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council announced its support for the measure.
“Prosecutors across Colorado join in the shared objectives of this bill that focus on responsible and meaningful police reform that will create safer and healthier communities for everyone in our state,” said Tom Raynes, the council’s executive director.
“We are highly appreciative of the extensive work of the sponsors and leadership in both parties. Following significant stakeholder engagement that vastly improved the bill from its original version, CDAC is now supportive of the legislation as amended. We also recognize the need to continue addressing many of these issues and are dedicated to being a part of those efforts.”
The bill will head to the governor’s desk. Polis said Tuesday that he supports the measure.