Tuesday, 19 Oct 2021

Here’s what Colorado’s police reform bill does

Far-reaching reforms to Colorado policing are on their way to becoming law after the final passage of Senate Bill 217 in the General Assembly on Saturday. Here are eight of the most significant pieces of the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity bill, which Gov. Jared Polis has said he will sign.

Body-worn cameras: Every officer in the state — with exceptions for jail deputies in facilities that already have cameras, undercover officers and those in administrative positions — will have to use body-worn cameras by Jul 1, 2023. The cameras must be activated when officers are responding to calls for service. Police who purposely fail to activate their cameras or tamper with them could face criminal liability or other penalties. Footage will be required to be released within 21 days after an allegation of misconduct, or within 45 days if the release could jeopardize a criminal investigation.

Use of force: Chokeholds and carotid control holds will be banned. Carotid control holds are maneuvers in which officers bend their arms around a person’s neck and apply pressure on either side of the windpipe, which can lead to unconsciousness. Officers will also be restricted in when they can use deadly physical force: It can’t be used against someone for a minor or nonviolent offense. Officers can only use deadly force against someone fleeing from police if they pose an immediate risk to the officer or others, which advocates say is already case law.

Failure to intervene: An officer who fails to try to stop another from using excessive force could face a class 1 misdemeanor charge.

Fired cops: Officers who plead guilty to or are convicted of an inappropriate use of force, failure to intervene to stop excessive force or found civilly liable for excessive force or failure to intervene will lose their Peace Officer Standards and Training board certification permanently. Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, the POST board will create and maintain a public database of officers who have been decertified, fired or repeatedly failed to follow training requirements.

Qualified immunity: People who allege civil rights violations will be able to sue officers in their individual capacities. Officers determined not to have acted in good faith or with a reasonable belief that what they did was legal can be held personally liable for 5% of a judgment or settlement or $25,000, whichever is less.

Police prosecutions: The state attorney general has the authority to prosecute persistently bad departments and officers.

Protester protections: Officers will be prohibited from shooting rubber bullets indiscriminately into a crowd as well as targeting rubber bullet shots at someone’s head, torso or back. It also prevents officers from using tear gas before announcing it and giving time to for people to disperse.

Data tracking: Law enforcement agencies will have to send the state data on their use of force resulting in serious injury or death as well as stops, unannounced entries and use of firearms. Some demographic information will also be required. Agencies who don’t provide the information could put their funding in jeopardy.

The full text of the bill is available at http://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2020A/bills/2020a_217_rer.pdf.

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