Colorado’s historic police reform bill one step away from being signed into law

Tears streamed down Colorado lawmakers’ faces as House Speaker KC Becker, choking up, read the final vote count: 52-13.

A bill that promises to bring historic changes to policing in the state passed the House on Friday afternoon, likely leaving one last step before it can be signed into law.

The vote came after lawmakers spent hours sharing personal experiences they and their loved ones have had with law enforcement and the need for accountability to keep black and brown communities in Colorado safe. Several stressed that the bill isn’t about good cops but about holding those entrusted with protecting their communities accountable.

Senate Bill 217 was introduced in the wake of George Floyd’s death at police hands in Minneapolis, but lawmakers stressed that the issues are not new and are very much Colorado issues, too. Among the biggest changes, the bill requires all officers to use body-worn cameras, bans the use of chokeholds and carotid control holds and limits when police are allowed to shoot at a person who is running away, known as the “fleeing felon” statute.

Cops also would have to have objective justification to make stops, be required to intervene when seeing other officers using excessive force and could be sued as individuals for excessive force allegations, removing “qualified immunity” protections. It also restricts the use of force officers can use on protesters.

“I am feeling incredibly proud and grateful that this legislative body has stood up and listened to the protesters and listened to the families and said, ‘we’re going to do something about this injustice in our society and we’re going to start today,’” said Rep. Leslie Herod, a bill sponsor and Denver Democrat, after the vote.

Herod said she wants to tell Coloradans and the people of Denver that the bill passed because they showed up, protested and demanded change, which helped push the legislation forward. But most importantly, she said, it honors families like those of Elijah McClain and De’Von Bailey, both of whom were killed by Colorado police last year.

The bill is headed back to the Senate, which passed the bill on a 32-1 vote earlier this week, because of amendments that the House made to it. They’re expected to vote on the final bill later Friday. Gov. Jared Polis has previously indicated his support of the bill.

— Saja Hindi (@BySajaHindi) June 12, 2020

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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