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Colorado Speaks: The Black Lives Matter Protests

Colorado Democrats Announce a New Bill To Hold Law Enforcement More Accountable

As mass demonstrations against police brutality continue throughout America, a group of Centennial State lawmakers has put forth a set of legislative solutions.

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On Tuesday afternoon, a small group of Colorado Democrats, including state Senate President Leroy Garcia and state Rep. Leslie Herod, unveiled the Police Integrity Transparency and Accountability Act, a new bill designed to hold Colorado law enforcement officers more liable for misconduct. They did so on the west steps of the Capitol during the sixth day of protests in response to the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, both at the hands of police.

“It is time for us to have meaningful reform, and, yes, sweeping reform,” Herod said during a press conference after the event. “We have to rethink the way we do law enforcement in this community and country. That starts right here today.”

The new legislation, expected to be formally introduced to the General Assembly in the next few days, lays out a number of new provisions. Among them, all officers in the state would be required to wear body cameras, and guidelines would be put in place for how and when footage from those cameras should be released. Officers who were fired from one city for excessive use of force would be prohibited from applying to work in another municipality in Colorado. It would be mandatory to collect data on who is being stopped and searched to help prevent racial profiling. And the legislation would also abolish qualified immunity—which prohibits a public official from being sued in the event they cause serious harm to an individual—for police officers.

Yesterday, Thomas Raynes, the executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, an organization that trains the state’s district attorneys on effective administration of criminal justice, indicated some key stakeholders, including law enforcement and prosecutors, may find the bill to be too far-reaching. But, in a statement to 5280, he backs increasing the use of body cameras, eliminating the use of chokeholds by peace officers, and tracking officers who have been terminated or decertified so they can’t be employed elsewhere. “Let’s achieve these things together in the next week,” said Raynes. “And not let areas of disagreement derail the good we can accomplish in this moment.”

With only a few weeks left in a legislative session that has already been postponed due to the novel coronavirus, there is limited time to make the bill law. The protests across the country and state, however, could make this a prime moment for such sweeping legislation. When asked whether he thought that would be the case, Garcia told 5280: “It has to be. If not now, does it happen after the next travesty? For so many of us, we’ve cared about this for a long time. I’m encouraged by the young people, old people, people of all different races coming together and saying: We do have injustices, we do have things plaguing our community, and we need to do something about it.”

Keep Reading: All of 5280‘s protest-related coverage can be found here.

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