Colorado legislators are expected to announce a package of bills Tuesday to provide more restrictions, oversight and training of law enforcement officers in the wake of local and national allegations of abuse by police.
The legislation is expected to include body cameras for officers, tougher prohibitions on racial profiling, a ban on chokeholds, and special prosecutors for cases involving excessive or deadly force. Bills also are expected to set penalties for unlawful orders by law enforcement to the public or when officers prevent someone from recording their actions in public.
“This package of legislation is decades in the making,” said Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, a former civil rights investigator. “Generations of activists, neighborhood groups and community members have been saying this was needed.”
Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, one of the main proponents of the package, has been meeting with police and prosecutors, community groups and legislators for almost a year to find common ground.
“We’ve had a good, thorough holistic approach to this,” she said.
Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, who was Weld County’s sheriff before joining the legislature this year, said Republicans support several of the concepts, but he hadn’t seen the final bills to be announced Tuesday.
“These are being presented mostly by urban Denver Democrats, and what works down here in Denver might not work over in Gunnison or up in Weld County,” Cooke said. “You have that conflict, and there’s not one size that fits all. That’s part of the problem.
“If there’s a problem with a particular law enforcement agency, then let’s address that particular law enforcement agency. Let’s not paint the issue with a broad brush.”
Denver has paid out almost $17 million in settlements with victims or their families in abuse cases over the past decade.
Stephanie O’Malley, executive director of Denver’s Public Safety Department, said she was receptive to ideas such as increasing body cameras.
But lawmakers need to keep in mind the costs the various proposals could bring for cities and counties.
“It’s not free,” she said.
Michael Violette, executive director of the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, said he hasn’t seen the final drafts of the bills proposed, but he’s concerned about unintended consequences.
“The biggest concern is much of this is a knee-jerk reaction to some isolated circumstances,” he said. “What are they trying to solve?”