“I want us to have good public policy that improves the circumstances that we find ourselves in now where there is a lower act of trust than there should be with our law enforcement agencies if we’re going to have effective law enforcement. I routinely get stopped on the streets unnecessarily, and that of even more importance to me [is] that the entire time that my son was growing up and even now that he’s an adult, he still gets stopped. I don’t want those things to continue to happen.” – Representative John Buckner, District 40
The House Judiciary Committee heard four bills until late last night that focus on law enforcement policies. If the votes of the Committee are any indication, legislators are seeking reforms to the current criminal justice system.
Twenty-five criminal justice bills have been introduced in the Colorado Legislature this session. Yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee legislators cited incidents of high profile cases of officer-involved killings that account for the high number of bills, but also expressed concern over local incidents.
The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on House Bill 1285: law enforcement use of body-worn cameras which passed unanimously and was returned to sponsor Representative Joe Salazar to rework the bill in compromise with law enforcement. Police testimony was numerous in support of the bill saying that police are highly targeted for unjust accusations of misconduct.
House Bill 1290 which if passed by the legislature, would stop police interference with public recording of officer-involved incidents. The bill received opposition from law enforcement who repeated that police misconduct is infrequent and incidents are too isolated to warrant a bill. In contrast, testimony was heard from Levi Frasier, the person behind the camera of the recording of a high profile August 14, 2014 incident of police beating a suspect and then tripping his pregnant girlfriend who landed on her stomach. The case is currently being investigated by the FBI. In his testimony, Frasier outlined the different attempts by law enforcement to confiscate his footage. The bill was held over until amendments could be reworked.
Bill 1287 that seeks to improve police officer training and sponsored by Representative Angela Williams passed on an unanimous vote and moves to the Appropriations Committee.
It was House Bill 1289 that if passed would require a court to dismiss all charges of a defendant who is charged based on an unlawful order from a law enforcement officer. This bill received the greatest challenge from law enforcement including from Chief of Police for Greenwood Village John Jackson.
The bill passed on a 7-6 vote and also moves to the Committee of the Whole (COW).
Three additional bills dealing with choke holds, creating a special prosecutor, and profiling will be heard on Thursday beginning at 1:30 at the capitol.