Denver mayor marches with protesters after Floyd's death

Protesters and police, including Chief Vanessa Wilson, center, kneel together for eight minutes and 46 seconds during a peaceful protest against police brutality, following the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Aurora, Colo. Floyd died in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.

A sweeping police reform bill, which received its second committee approval on Saturday, would change the way law enforcement does business.

Called the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act, the sweeping police reform measure was re-introduced this past week after being tabled during the legislature’s pause during COVID-19. It comes as a response to public protests over George Floyd, a Minnesota man who died while in police custody. 

Protests and marches over Floyd’s death are in their second straight week and have even reached communities overseas, like Paris and Berlin, and also rural towns in Colorado, like Ouray and Westcliffe.

If adopted as it is now, Senate Bill 217 would:  

  • Ban chokeholds

  • Require all state law enforcement personnel to wear body-worn cameras at all times when dealing with the public

  • Require law enforcement agencies to turn over body camera recordings to the public within 14 days of the incident (except in sensitive cases, for example, regarding a sexual assault).

  • If the body camera footage is tampered with, it will be assumed that the officer is covering up a mistake or wrongdoing

  • Officers must have a justification for making a stop

  • A post-investigation evaluation must be conducted for all officer-involved deaths by the division of criminal justice in the department of public safety in coordination with the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board.

  • Each agency would report  to the Attorney General regarding the use of force by officers that result in death or serious injury, instances when officers resign under investigation, data relating to police stops and information related to unannounced entry by police officers

  • Require the division of criminal justice to maintain a statewide database with data collected in a searchable format and publish the database on its website. If a state or local law enforcement agency does not meet these reporting requirements, it may lose funding. 

  • Any statewide database of this information collected by law enforcement officials would be made accessible to the public.

  • Require than an officer is convicted or pleads guilty to inappropriate use of force, or fails to intervene when another officer is doing so, they will be fired or their certification will be permanently revoked. This is designed to keep officers from moving from one jurisdiction to another when they get in trouble.

  • In many cases, a citizen in Colorado can sue an officer if these rights are infringed upon.  

  • States that a peace officer is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person only when the officer reasonably believes that this is necessary to make an arrest or to prevent the person from escaping custody when the person has a deadly weapon or likely to be dangerous to another person.  (This repeals the “fleeing felon” statute, which allows officers to use deadly force if they think a person has a weapon or might be a felon or might commit a felony crime, among other “might” situations)

  • A database containing information relating to officers “untruthfulness, repeated failure to follow training, decertification and termination for cause” must be created and updated

That certification may be revoked if officers fail to complete “peace officer training.”

The comprehensive police reform measure is sponsored by Sens. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, and Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Reps. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Serena Gonzales-Guitierrez, D-Denver.” 

After moving through the Appropriations committee on Saturday, SB 217 will likely see its second reading Monday and is expected to go through more revisions. Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock told Colorado Politics there are parts of the measure that he finds too broad. 

“This was too soon, this was knee-jerk, (and) this was not really getting to the core of the problem,” he said. “They’re throwing everything in but the kitchen sink.”

Denver attorney Mari Newman, who helped draft the bill, said, “We need true change now and that’s what this bill is as it is currently written. The last thing we need is for lawmakers to water it down.”

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