DENVER (AP) – Colorado law enforcement would be encouraged to expand the use of body cameras with a measure given initial approval as legislators considered several police accountability bills Tuesday.
Law enforcement oversight is one of the bigger topics of debate this year in the aftermath of police misconduct allegations in Colorado and elsewhere. Lawmakers in Denver are considering about a dozen bills.
Some, including the body camera proposal, have bipartisan backing and support from law enforcement, although details must still be finalized.
The body camera legislation would create a grant program to buy the devices for interested departments. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill Tuesday, but it still needs consideration from the full House.
Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, told lawmakers body cameras can be a “tool that can be used to get to the truth of the matter in allegations of police misconduct, either to exonerate the police officer or not.”
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Other bills face more skepticism, such as a proposal to prohibit officers from interfering with citizens recording an incident. While supporters argue it’s a matter of strengthening people’s right to record in public, opponents are concerned the bill could interfere with the collection of evidence.
Tom Raynes, the executive director of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council, called it absurd to allow “evidence of a crime leave the scene” if law enforcement is unable to immediately seize a recording. Under the bill, police would need a warrant or permission from the person recording to get the video or face civil penalties.
“The bill is exceedingly litigious,” Raynes said.
The House Judiciary Committee was considering that bill, and two others. One would revise officer training standards, and another would clarify what is considered a lawful order for which and officer can arrest someone.
Several other police oversight bills are also moving through the legislative process, including collecting data on police shootings. Lawmakers also want a multi-agency response to such investigations.
Lawmakers have spent months crafting the proposals after public outcry over the killing of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. In Denver, police have been dealing with concerns over the fatal shooting in January of 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez.
Legislators said the goal is to rebuild public trust.
Law enforcement groups say they agree, provided the proposals are funded and don’t interfere with officer safety and their ability to do their jobs.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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