Colorado’s Police Reform Legislation

The speed at which Colorado government passed significant police reforms is remarkable. This certainly would not have happened but for the intense protests in Denver and around the country over the death of George Floyd.

Among those to write about the legislation are Nick Sibilla and Jesse Paul and Jennifer Brown.

Governor Jared Polis signed the measure, SB20-217, on June 19. Here’s (some of) what the bill does:

  • Requires police to wear body cameras in most interactions with the public. There’s a lot of detail here in terms of requirements, exceptions, and penalties.
  • Expands reporting requirements of police interactions with the public.
  • Revokes peace officer certification if an officer is convicted of (or pleads guilty to) a crime involving the use physical force, or is found civilly liable for misuse of force. This applies to failure to intervene if another officer misuses force.
  • Limits police use of force in response to protests with respect to “impact projectiles” and chemical agents.
  • Enables citizens to sue officers in state courts for violating their rights, notwithstanding “qualified immunity.” In some cases, an officer can be personally liable for the first $25,000 of a settlement, depending on the officer’s employer’s determination of “good faith.”
  • Limits the use of force by police officers. “Peace officers . . . shall apply nonviolent means, when possible, before resorting to the use of physical force. A peace officer may use physical force only if nonviolent means would be ineffective in effecting an arrest, preventing an escape, or preventing an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to the peace officer or another person.” An officer may not “use deadly physical force to apprehend a person who is suspected of only a minor or nonviolent offense.”
  • Prohibits the use of chokeholds.
  • Requires “a peace officer [to] intervene to prevent or stop another peace officer from using physical force that exceeds the degree of force permitted.” Failure to so intervene is a misdemeanor.
  • Limits profiling by requiring a “legal basis for making contact.” (I’m not sure this will do much good, as officers often use minor offenses as a pretext to profile.

In all, this is a profoundly important piece of legislation and a huge win for liberty.

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