DENVER (CBS4)– A new police accountability law in Colorado is the first in the country to hold officers personally liable for wrongdoing. Gov.Jared Polis signed the bill on Juneteenth, just 16 days after it was introduced.
“This is a long overdue moment of national reflection,” Polis said.
Democrats, Republicans, police and prosecutors came together to support the legislation that is bittersweet for Delisha Searcy and Greg Bailey. Their son De’Von was shot and killed by police.
“It had to take something happening to another black man in another state for anything to happen in Colorado,” said Bailey.
Many of the reforms have been debated for years at the Capitol. It took outrage outside the building, in response to the death of George Floyd, to change minds inside.
“We are talking about generations of pain and suffering,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Guttierez, one of the bill sponsors.
The law not only holds officers who abuse their position civilly and criminally liable, but officers who don’t intervene too. Chokeholds are banned, body cameras required and non-violent crimes can no longer be met with deadly force.
Bill sponsor Sen. Rhonda Fields thanked families like the Baileys who helped pass the bill, “It’s not easy to stand on grief and pain for justice.”
While the bill can’t undo the injustices and won’t end all the inequality, Rep. Leslie Herod says it is a start toward restoring trust in law enforcement, “I can’t legislate hate out of someone’s heart but what we can do is take a big step in right direction and continue to our commitment to work on these issues.”
Herod says those issues include “divesting from police” to put more resources toward mental health care, for example.
Lawmakers also hinted at legislation addressing racism in areas like housing, employment and education next year.