DENVER (AP) — The Colorado House advanced measures Friday to limit the use of chokeholds by officers and to make it easier to appoint special prosecutors when law enforcement is accused of using excessive force.
The bills are among a package of proposals lawmakers are pitching in response to public outcry over allegations of police misconduct in Colorado and the nation.
Both measures got got preliminary approval by the full House on a voice vote, setting up final action as soon as next week to send the bills to the Senate.
One measure would allow chokeholds only in self-defense — an exception law enforcement officials asked legislators for.
Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton, an Aurora lawmaker sponsoring the bill, cited the 2010 death of Marvin Booker while in custody at Denver’s county jail. Deputies shocked Booker with a stun gun while he was handcuffed and put him in a sleeper hold to try to control him. His family said Booker, 56, was frail and had a heart condition.
“Members, we want to prevent that from happening again,” Melton said.
Another bill would allow judges to appoint special prosecutors in cases alleging excessive-force if a decision not to prosecute is questionable and deemed an abuse of discretion. A person would have to petition the court first.
Some lawmakers worry judges considering brutality cases may be swayed by public pressure to prosecute and that the proposal would lower the standard to file charges.
Currently, in addition to proving that there was an abuse of discretion, petitioners have to prove a decision not to charge was arbitrary and capricious and without reasonable excuse.
“Moving from that standard to an abuse of discretion where the focus is which group in the community is lobbying the hardest and the loudest in pushing for or against prosecution, I think make the process more politicized, not less,” said Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs.
One of the bill sponsors, Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said the current standard is impossible to meet.
“You not only have to prove arbitrary and capricious and without reasonable excuse, but then you have to prove abuse of discretion. And then not only do you have to prove that, but you have to do it all by clear and convincing evidence,” he said. “It’s an impossible standard.”
By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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