Colorado passes statewide police reforms

Earlier this week, we discussed police reforms taking place in cities like San Francisco, and even on the federal level. This past Saturday, the state of Colorado passed one of the most comprehensive police reform bills in the country. 

The bill, which Gov. Jared Polis has said he will sign once it reaches his desk, includes a ban on the use of chokeholds and carotid control holds and limits on when police are allowed to shoot at a fleeing person. It also requires officers to intervene in cases of excessive force or face criminal charges. Additionally, it requires all officers to use body-worn cameras and departments to release the footage within 45 days. 

Colorado, which has also been at the forefront of firearm reform, has passed criminal justice reforms over the years but nothing as far-reaching in one fell swoop. The momentum of recent racial justice protests even convinced Republican lawmakers, who had been opposed to such reforms in the past, to support the bill. The bill ultimately received bipartisan support. The final vote in the House was 52-13 on Friday, and in the Senate, it was 32-2 on Saturday.

The most contentious aspect of the bill is the removal of the qualified immunity doctrine, meaning families can sue police officers individually for constitutional violations. It also includes the establishment of a database to prevent officers who violate protocols in one district from being hired in another. 

Most of these changes are already occurring at the city level, making comprehensive statewide implementation more feasible. Spurred by the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed black Americans, reform bills like this one have been implemented in cities and states across the country. At least 23 other states now also require that police release body camera footage upon request. 

In Colorado specifically, the fatal shooting of De’Von Bailey in the back by Colorado Springs police last December and the violent fatal arrest of Elijah McClain by Aurora police last August amplified the demand for significant police reforms. State officials hope sweeping reforms, including Senate Bill 217, will prevent future police brutality, improve transparency, and promote community wellness.

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