DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s prohibition of racial profiling by law enforcement would be expanded to include sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and other factors under legislation that cleared the state House Tuesday.
The Democrat-sponsored measure passed 36-28 on a largely party-line vote, signaling that it may have trouble in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it goes next.
The proposal would broaden Colorado’s existing ban on racial profiling by adding several characteristics to the list of factors law enforcement can’t use as the basis to approach someone. In addition to sexual orientation and socioeconomic status, law enforcement would be forbidden from considering national origin, language, gender, and disabilities as a reason to make contact.
The bill would also bar officers from asking for permission to search a person they stop, unless there’s reasonable suspicion, and law enforcement would not be able to detain someone longer than it’s necessary to issue a ticket.
Law enforcement officials told legislators the change is an overreaction to concerns about profiling.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police said they share the public’s worry about any hint of racial bias and that they want to continue working with lawmakers on the bill.
“But we have some concerns about language in the bill that goes beyond preventing profiling, and instead restricts essential officer communication necessary to keeping our communities safe,” the association’s lobbyist, AnnMarie Jensen, said in a statement.
Democrats backing the proposal say it’s a needed update. Rep. Angela Williams, a black lawmaker, was the lead sponsor of the bill in the House.
“It’s hard to understand racial profiling unless you’ve been profiled,” she said. “This is an important piece of legislation that will help bring safety, security to those who may be racially profiled.”
Republican Rep. Paul Lundeen opposed the bill, saying it would restrict officers’ ability to do their jobs.
“There are significant portions of this that are not helpful to public safety,” he said.
The bill is one of several that legislators are considering this year regarding law enforcement in response to public uproar nationally and in the state over allegations of misconduct.
On Monday, the House also approved legislation to allow police chokeholds only in self-defense, and a proposal to make it easier to appoint special prosecutors to investigate shootings in some cases when no charges are filed.
Both of those bills also are headed to the Senate, where another slate of police-related bills is moving through. That chamber gave unanimous preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would require the state to start collecting data about officer-involved shootings, including demographic information on the officer and individual shot.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed.
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