Senate Bill 217 affects almost every aspect of policing in Colorado. Among its provisions are requirements that law enforcement agencies:
- Outfit all officers with body cameras
- Release body camera footage within 45 days of a questionable police encounter
- Ban the use of chokeholds and carotid holds
- Collect racial data on officers’ encounters with the public
- Report to the state when officers unholster their weapons, point their weapons at a citizen and use deadly force
Additionally, the legislation allows officers to be sued in their individual capacities and be liable for up to $25,000 in damages. It also changes the standards around the legal use of deadly force and prohibits police from using deadly force against people accused of a minor or nonviolent offense. Also, significantly, the bill requires officers to intervene if one of their colleagues is using inappropriate force.
Finally, the measure changes Colorado’s so-called “fleeing felon law,” which allows officers to use deadly force to stop a person they suspect has used a weapon in a crime or is armed. Law enforcement, under the bill, would be able to use deadly force against a suspected fleeing felon only if there is an imminent threat of the person using the weapon as part of their escape.
There are also changes in the bill for prosecutors and the court system, including a requirement that a grand jury that declines to indict an officer must release a report to the public on their reasoning.
“We are making history by the passing of this comprehensive, sweeping legislation,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who championed the measure, moments before the bill was sent to the governor.
George Floyd died May 27 in Minneapolis after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. His death prompted protests across the nation, including in Denver.
Organized labor and the Black Lives Matter movement have worked together since 2015 on a number of campaigns, including public school curriculum reform and the Fight for $15. Any public differences over Black Lives Matter have been primarily between police unions and the rest of the labor movement, though on the broader issue of diversity, the progressive rank-and-file of many unions continue to press their leadership into action.