The Crestone Eagle • July, 2020
‘A cultural change is needed’ Colorado passes historic ‘Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act’
by Lisa Cyriacks
The Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act enacts several provisions that will prevent police brutality and increase transparency and accountability for Colorado’s law enforcement agencies.
“This is about a pattern of injustice and unfair treatment that Black Americans and communities of color have endured, not only in our criminal justice system but also in aspects of everyday life,” Governor Jared Polis said in a press statement on June 19, the day he signed the legislation into law.
Polis continued, “Coloradans should be proud our state is leading the way to make policing more accountable, restore trust in law enforcement, uphold an individual’s civil liberties, and lay the groundwork for future discussions of criminal and juvenile justice reform.”
The bill, co-sponsored by every Democrat in the Colorado House and Senate, also received a surprising amount of support from police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs. One Fraternal Order of Police representative testified his organization is supporting the bill because “a culture change is needed.”
“This isn’t just about following policy, it’s about doing right,” said Sgt. Rob Pride, Loveland Police Department, speaking on be
half of the Fraternal Order, “The community is up in arms and we get that and they have the right to be.”
Passage of the law is in response to demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd who died while being arrested, in addition to widespread national protests demanding changes to police procedures in the wake of multiple violent deaths of people in police custody.
At least 23 states including Colorado already require the release of officers’ body-worn camera footage upon request. The state also will join a handful of states that are improving data collection of arrests made. The Colorado bill requires local agencies to report on all use-of-force incidents, not just those that are deadly. The information will go into a statewide database.
Among the bill’s new requirements:
• Officers can’t use carotid chokeholds.
• Officers can’t use deadly force to arrest someone on suspicion of minor or non-violent offenses.
• Officers can’t use deadly force unless there is proof of imminent threat of danger and there is a substantial risk that the suspect will hurt others.
• All police officers and sheriffs’ deputies will be required to wear body cameras when they make stops and during most interactions with the public. Body camera recordings will be required to be released to the public after incidents, in most circumstances, within 14 days.
• Officers can be sued individually for misconduct—and will be on the hook for up to $25,000 or 5% of the judgment, whichever is less. It has to be determined that the officer did not act in good faith.
• Cops must have a legal basis for establishing contact with someone, including stopping them on the street or pulling over vehicles in traffic.
• By 2023, all police departments are required to report all use of force that results in bodily injury or death to a state agency—that information includes the demographics of the person who was injured or killed by police, the type of force used, as well as the officer’s name who was involved.
• In response to a protest or a demonstration, cops can’t use chemical agents, namely tear gas, without warning. They can’t fire rubber or foam bullets indiscriminately into a crowd.
• The attorney general will have the power to investigate police departments for civil rights violations.
According to The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado, Colorado is one of the first states in the country to end qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is the legal doctrine that protects police officers from civil lawsuits, which some have argued gives cover to cops who are not acting in good faith and use excessive force.
Passage of the legislation places Colorado at the forefront in adopting a statewide approach to systemic policing changes following protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police less than three weeks ago.
The reforms included in the bill aim to implement these changes in policing and put an end to the disproportionate number of deaths of Black and Brown people while in police custody.