Here’s How Colorado Changed Its Policing After George Floyd’s Murder

April 27, 2021
Denver Protests Against Racism Police Brutality June 2020Denver Protests Against Racism Police Brutality June 2020Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
In Civic Center Park during Denver protests in early June against racism and police brutality after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

On June 19, 2020, after weeks of daily protests at the Colorado State Capitol against police brutality and racism following George Floyd's murder, Gov. Jared Polis signed into a law a broad police accountability bill called Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity.

The bill drew bipartisan support in both chambers and was supported by prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. Even sheriffs, police chiefs and the police union didn’t oppose the legislation — saying in a statement they wished they would have won a few more amendments, but they “recognize social justice holds an important place in our society, including policing."

Here's an overview of what the bill did.

Body cameras

By July 1, 2023, all police and sheriff's departments are required to equip their officers with body cameras. Officers and deputies are required to record all traffic stops and most of their interactions with the public. If an investigation reveals that an officer tampered with or failed to activate their dashboard or body camera, the officer is subject to disciplinary action, including suspension, termination or revoking of the officer's certification.

In most cases, if a complaint of officer misconduct is filed, the law enforcement agency must release to the public all unedited dash camera or body camera footage within 21 days. If a family member or legal guardian requests the footage, it must be released to them 72 hours before being released to the public.

Any video that "would substantially interfere with or jeopardize an active or ongoing investigation" must be released no later than 45 days after the initial complaint is received.

Related: New Denver police body cameras would automatically start recording when officers draw their weapons

Transparency in law enforcement reporting

Under the new law, law enforcement agencies are required to collect and report to the state a lot more information about their operations. That includes demographic data on everyone officers pull over or stop on the street; detailed accounts of all use of force incidents by a police officer that result in death or serious bodily injury; and all instances in which an officer resigns while under investigation for misconduct.

By July 1, 2023, the state's Division of Criminal Justice must create an annual report and statewide database containing this information. The database must be searchable by the public, and must include information about officers whose certification has been revoked.

Any law enforcement agency that fails to participate in this reporting risks losing its funding.

Related: We dug into six years of records to learn more about Colorado police shootings. Now you can too

When an officer loses certification

Any officer who is found criminally liable, convicted of a crime or pleads guilty to a crime involving the unlawful or threatened use of force — including failure to intervene when seeing another officer breaking the rules — will be stripped of certification.

The Peace Officer Standards and Training board, (P.O.S.T.), which is responsible for certification, must develop a community outreach program that informs the public of its duties and practices. Additionally, by Jan. 1, 2022, the P.O.S.T. must create and maintain a database with information related an officer's untruthfulness, failure to follow training, or disciplinary action.

These policies follow a 2019 law that allows the P.O.S.T. board to revoke an officer's certification if they're found to have lied in court or during an investigation.

Related: Lying officers first to lose police certifications under new Colorado law

Police actions during protests

Officers cannot:

  • Discharge less-than-lethal projectiles (like rubber bullets) in a manner that targets anyone's head, hips, or back.
  • Discharge less-than-lethal projectiles (like rubber bullets) randomly into a crowd.
  • Use chemicals or irritants (like pepper spray or tear gas), without first clearly ordering people to disperse, and giving protesters enough time and space to do so.

Related: Denver Police officers acted dangerously and anonymously during summer protests against police brutality, investigation finds

Legal action

Officers can be sued individually for misconduct — and will be on the hook for up to $25,000 or 5 percent of the judgment, whichever is less. In order to reach that judgment, a court has to find that the officer did not act in good faith. Officers also must have a legal basis for establishing contact with someone, including stopping them on the street or pulling over vehicles in traffic.

Additionally, the attorney general will have the power to investigate police departments for civil rights violations.

Related: Northglenn agrees to nearly a nearly $9 million settlement in 2017 officer shooting

Use of force

Officers cannot:

  • Use deadly force to arrest someone on suspicion of minor or non-violent offenses.
  • Use carotid chokeholds.
  • Use deadly force unless there is proof of imminent threat of danger and there is a substantial risk that the suspect will hurt others.

Officers also have a duty to intervene and report on another officer from using force in any of the above ways. Any officer who fails to intervene or prevent such use of force commits a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

Related: Aurora police critically mishandled encounter with Elijah McClain before his death, independent report finds

Changes the "fleeing felon" statute

The new law modifies the state’s “fleeing felon” statute, which made it legal for police to shoot someone running away if they were suspected of a felony and were known to have a weapon. Under the revised policy, officers can only use deadly force if they believe the person fleeing is about to use a weapon against them or others to make their escape.

Related: Colorado Springs officers involved in shooting of 19-year-old De’Von Bailey back on 'full duty'

You can read the full text of SB 20-217 here.

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