Colorado governor signs police accountability bill, ending qualified immunity defense in the state
The law also bans chokeholds and limits other uses of force
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed into law a broad police accountability bill introduced amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
Colorado is one of several states and cities considering proposals aimed at limiting excessive force and increasing accountability after Floyd, a black man, died May 25 when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes.
Polis, a Democrat, said the new law will help restore trust between law enforcement and the community and that “black Americans deserve to feel safe.”
We cannot go back to normal,” Polis said. “We need to create a new normal where everybody’s rights are respected.”
The measure eliminates the qualified immunity defense that protects police officers from lawsuits and it now allows them to be sued for misconduct.
‼️BREAKING‼️: @GovofCO has signed #SB217 into law. Colorado becomes one of the first states in the country to END qualified immunity as part of this historic comprehensive police accountability bill. pic.twitter.com/ZHCKRpSaGL— ACLU of Colorado (@ACLUofColorado) June 19, 2020
The law also bans chokeholds and limits other uses of force and prohibits police from aiming non-lethal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters’ heads, pelvises or backs.
The new law requires all local and Colorado State Patrol officers who have contact with the public to be equipped with body cameras by July 1, 2023. Unedited footage from body cameras must be released to the public within 21 days of the filing of misconduct complaints.
The law bars police from using deadly force against suspects they believe are armed unless there is an imminent threat of a weapon being used as suspects attempt to escape.
Grand juries under the law will be required to release reports when they decide against charging officers accused in deaths.
Polis signed the bill during a ceremony in the state Capitol with state Sen. Rhonda Fields, Rep. Leslie Herod, Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Senate President Leroy Garcia, the bill’s Democratic sponsors.
The state Legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill 10 days after it was introduced on June 3.
“This is not the end,” said Gonzales-Gutierrez. “This is one small step and there is a tremendous amount of work ahead of us.”