July 8, 2020

Colorado’s Police Reform Lawfirst-read highlights

Colorado recently passed a sweeping police-reform law, Senate Bill 20-217, “Concerning Measures to Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity, And, In Connection Therewith, Making an Appropriation”. Here are my notes of highlights:

24-31-902 requires agencies to provide body cameras and officers to use them. Penalties for failing to do so and for tampering with recordings. Requires retention and release of footage. Provisions for redaction, blurring, and early notice to family members.

24-31-903 requires reporting of use-of-force incidents, resignations, and police contacts, and no-knock entries, starting in 2023. Requires maintenance of a statewide database.

24-31-904 requires revoking police officer certifications for crimes involving unauthorized use of force.

24-31-905 limits the use of chemical and less-lethal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets in response to protests and demonstrations.

13-31-131 creates a Colorado state law analog to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the federal statute that creates legal liability for depriving people of their individual rights under the constitution. Flatly prohibits qualified immunity as a defense under the state law. Requires that agencies indemnify police officers, but with payout structures designed to require officers to pay 5% or $25,000 of the damages, which is lower, if the violation was without good faith and reasonable believe that what they did was legal. Exception if the officer is convicted. Two-year statute of limitations.

18-1-703 adds an exception for use of force rules to maintain order and discipline in jails and prisons.

18-1-707 sets out a statewide policy on police use of force. Bans using “chokeholds”, broadly defined to include restrictions of air and blood.

(b)(I) … “chokehold” means a method by which a person applies sufficient pressure to a person to make breathing difficult or impossible and includes but is not limited to any pressure to the neck, throat, or windpipe that may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.

(II) “Chokehold” also means applying pressure to a person’s neck on either side of the windpipe, but not to the windpipe itself, to stop the flow of blood to the brain via the carotid arteries.

18-8-802 imposes a duty to intervene to stop other officers from using unauthorized force.

18-1-707 requires training on the new policies.

20-1-114 requires public reports from grand juries for officer-involved deaths.

24-31-303 requires the state’s POST board to administer databases.

24-31-113 prohibits patterns or practices depriving individuals of rights under the constitution. Enforced by the attorney general.

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