Accountability and fair policing have been a major subject for Coloradoans for both 2020 and 2021. The Black Lives Matter movement induced by George Floyd’s death In Minneapolis brought to light various issues regarding police brutality in Colorado. Victims stories began to trickle out into the public including Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Aurora African American man who died last year in a police chokehold for simply walking home from the corner store.
The lack of action against these police officers spawned outrage among Colorado residents and disturbed lawmakers. In an effort to hold police accountable, Governor Jared Polis signed on July 6, 2021 HB21-1250. The bill makes changes to the already existing provisions of SB 20-217, which mandates body-worn cameras for all law enforcement officers. The bill also requires police to release requested body camera footage that’s unredacted within 21 days if someone complains of officer misconduct.
Senate Bill 20-217 originally ordered all law enforcement departments to be outfitted with body cameras by July 1, 2023. However, lawmakers like Democratic Representative Leslie Herod stated that Colorado residents couldn’t wait that long for police transparency. The current law requires all law enforcement agencies to adorn body cams by July 1, 2022.
The bill states officers who fail to activate their cameras or tamper with the body cam footage with the intent to conceal unlawful/inappropriate actions/obstruct justice will have their certification suspended by the P.O.ST. board. The suspension will be no less than one year and can only be lifted if the officer is exonerated in court.
According to HB21-1250, officers can only turn off a body camera if they are avoiding recording personal information not related to the case, working on an unrelated assignment, they’re on a long break, or they’re in an administrative, tactical, and management discussion where civilians are not present.
The new law strips the qualified immunity defense from both the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the State Patrol. Before then, they were exempted.
HB21-1250 wasn’t the only bill signed in Colorado related to policing. Governor Polis signed a slew of other bills into law on July 6th, 2021. These include:
- HB21-1214: Automatically seals arrest records for many crimes
- HB21-1280: States jail defendants must have a bond hearing within 48 hours
- SB21-271: Reclassifies certain crimes and makes the criminal penalties generally less harsh for the offense
- SB21-138: Pilot program launched to study brain injuries among the incarcerated in Colorado as part of a long-term project
The Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC are happy to see a step forward for trust between Colorado residents and law enforcement. We hope these bills can hold law enforcement accountable and keep Colorado citizens safe from possible police brutality. If you’ve been arrested or faced an incident of police brutality, contact our office at (719) 328-1616. Our skilled Colorado Springs defense lawyers have spent decades representing clients of all types of crimes and can do the same for you.