By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday evening voted in favor of the state’s latest attempt at creating new police accountability, approving House Bill 1250. The bill spells out de-escalation techniques officers need to employ first, and it says any use of force must be proportional to the threat of imminent harm.

It also extends the act and last year’s accountability act to include the Colorado State Patrol. It makes new requirements on the implementation of body worn cameras, new contact reporting requirements and it closes a loophole that allows officers to avoid personal liability for misconduct following a resolution passed by Greenwood Village to prevent officers from paying damages by always indicating they have acted in good faith.

“I just want to be clear that law enforcement, I respect their experience. But I also respect the experience of the community,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Selena Gonzales-Gutierrez, a Democrat from Denver. “But we also have a responsibility in representing our Black and brown communities. That’s why I sit here today.

Co-sponsor state Rep. Leslie Herod, another Democrat from Denver said, “We must continue to work to make this system better because people are dying.”

The bill passed through the committee on a party line 7-4 vote.

“I simply believe that the way that language is currently written provides less clarity, less certainty, more subjectivity,” said state Rep. Terri Carver, a Republican from Colorado Springs.

Ron Sloan, of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, had objections as well.

“What it does is it creates again that mindset in officers and in all of these situations — regardless of what presents itself in a flash — it’s not justified to use deadly force. That is concerning,” he testified.

The Chiefs of Police, the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police and the County Sheriffs of Colorado later released a statement that included the following: “We were hoping to see clarifications to SB 217 to ensure the law is being implemented uniformly throughout the state. But that’s not what we got. Instead of providing clarification and a better understanding of 217, we got new and confusing changes about what law enforcement is and is not supposed to do.”

Herod said she had support from law enforcement around the state and even district attorneys during private conversations.

“I have heard quietly from certain DAs across the state who have said, we want to prosecute more officers, the law doesn’t allow it. And so we have to change the standard for when law enforcement can use force in our community.”

Herod and Gonzales-Gutierrez introduced the bill in March and have had multiple conversations with law enforcement about its language, including working sessions. She gave credit to protestors who have kept the pressure on for changes in police practices.

“This is the work that we are doing on behalf of them. The work continues in most areas. We are not done.”

She promised additional legislation. One bill already proposed, HB21-1251 includes a ban on the use of chemical restraints, including drugs like ketamine used on Elijah McClain. Others she says will look at district attorney accountability and school-to-prison pipeline issues.

“There are more bills coming and hopefully there will be more bills coming every single year. Until we address and root out the problematic issues that we have within law enforcement,” said Herod.

HB21-1250 now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

Alan Gionet