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What You Should Know About Colorado’s Police Reform Bill

Several policemen standing.

On Saturday, June 13, 2020, the Colorado Senate passed the “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity” bill, which addresses the recent Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and ensures accountability by law enforcement departments throughout the state in the near future. Governor Jared Polis to expected to sign SB20-217. 

The following are the main provisions included in this bill: 

  • Use of deadly force – Chokeholds, such as carotid control holds, will be banned. Furthermore, deadly force cannot be used against a person who allegedly violated a minor or nonviolent offense. Law enforcement officials can only use deadly force against someone who is fleeing from the police if they are an immediate risk to the officers or other people, which is aligned with previous Supreme Court rulings. 

  • Body camera requirement – Except for undercover officers and jail deputies, all Colorado police officers must wear an active body camera by July 1, 2023. Whenever an officer responds to a call, he/she must activate the body camera. In the event of police misconduct, footage from body cameras will be released within 21 days after filing a claim. If releasing the footage could potentially compromise a current criminal investigation, the deadline is 45 days. Failure to activate a body camera while on duty or tamper with the footage is punishable by criminal charges or other penalties. 

  • Hold non-intervening officers liable for their actions – If an officer fails to try to prevent another officer from using excessive force, he/she could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor or higher, depending on the circumstances of the case. Additionally, intervening officers will have protection against retaliation. 

  • Remove qualified immunity – Officers can no longer use the qualified immunity defense when facing civil rights violations in civil court. If the court determines that an officer did not act in good faith or within legal reason, he/she can be responsible for a settlement, five percent of a judgment, or $25,000, whichever is less. 

  • Eliminate the ability to rehire fired cops – Any officer who is convicted of or pleads guilty to inappropriate use of force or failure to stop or intervene excessive force - or is found liable in a civil court for excessive force or failure to stop - will have their Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board permanently revoked. A public database where the POST board lists fired, decertified, untruthful, or unqualified officers will be available in January 2022. 

  • Power to prosecute – The Colorado Attorney General has the jurisdiction to prosecute departments and officers who are continuously receiving public complaints. 

  • Protect protesters – Shooting rubber bullets at a person’s head, back, or torso, or aimlessly shooting into crowds is prohibited. In addition, officers are not allowed to use tear gas before announcing to use it, giving protesters time to disperse. 

  • Public reporting – Law enforcement departments throughout the state must track and publicly report data regarding the use of force causing deaths or serious injuries, use of firearms, unannounced entries, and civilian searches. Some demographic information will be required, such as race, ethnicity, age, and gender of the person who initiated contact. 

Although there is still more work to be done toward equality and justice for all, SB20-217 is a significant step toward positive and lasting systematic change. Not only are all these provisions aimed to prevent the tragic deaths of African Americans and other minorities caused by law enforcement officials, but they are also a foundation toward rebuilding trust between the police and the public. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested and had your constitutional rights violated by the Denver police, contact Orr Law Firm today and schedule a free consultation to learn how we can protect your rights and freedom.