Governor Jared Polis officially made it illegal for cops to not wear body cameras, use chokeholds, and more.
The Governor of Colorado Jared Polis signed a bill into law on Friday that bans the use of chokeholds by law enforcement officials and ends the practice of qualified immunity, The Hill reports. The actions are a small part of sweeping police reform in the state. The bill was prompted by the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests taking place in the state and across the country. While some have criticized the bill, claiming that this will encourage police officers to resign from their positions, the majority of the state's residents have praised the move. Colorado is one of the many states that are finally taking action against police brutality and institutional racism.
My statement on the passage of SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity:— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) June 13, 2020
I commend the sponsors and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their efforts to pass this landmark reform bill. @leslieherod, @SerenaForCO, @Leroy_Garcia, @SenRhondaFields (1/4)
The bill officially brings an end to a legal doctrine that awarded police officers protection from civil lawsuits. The doctrine, many have argued, cushioned cops who used excessive force. After the death of George Floyd sparked protests all over the United States, the granting of qualified immunity has come under scrutiny. Colorado is one of the first states to do away with it. "By facing the cold hard truth about the unequal treatment of Black Americans and communities of color, we can and we will create real change that will materially improve the lives of countless Americans of this generation and future generations," Polis stated when he signed the bill into law. "And we can bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice."
In addition to banning chokeholds and ending qualified immunity, the bill makes body cameras a requirement for all state and local police. All departments are to be compliant by 2023. Further to this, all footage will be made available to the public. Shooting a fleeing suspect and using deadly force (unless someone's life is in immediate danger) are also banned and an officer will have to file a report every single time they stop someone they suspect of a crime. Details about that individual's ethnicity, race, and gender will be noted and placed on record. Police officers will now also be held accountable for up $25,000 in damages if they are found violating someone's civil rights. Officers are additionally encouraged to report their colleagues' wrongdoings.
While these changes have been made with the intent of correcting systemic and institutional racism, many believe that the bill will only lead to more crime. In a radio interview with 630 KHOW host Ross Kaminsky, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler claimed that there were several problems with the bill that would discourage quality officers from joining the force. He said, "I’ve got people in my office, fantastic prosecutors, the kind you would want on your neighbor’s case if your neighbor was victimized by someone. They’re saying, ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this.’ These are moms with small kids, dads, families. I’ve got senior members of law enforcement who I think are the bomb reaching out to me and saying, ‘My troops are beside themselves, guys talking about early retirement.’ Not bad cops, good cops."
However, it must be highlighted that this argument ignores the systemic issues that lead to the deaths of a countless number of people of color, and Black people in particular, by White police officers. If we are to truly encourage quality officers to join police departments across the country, they must act appropriately, fully understanding that they will not be protected for murdering someone when they should not have used excessive force. Colorado is only one of the many states passing sweeping police reforms; the country is slowly following suit. Congress is expected to tackle the issue of police brutality and institutional racism at the federal level in the upcoming weeks.