Headlines June 3, 2020

Headlines June 3, 2020

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A bill is being introduced at the state legislature that would increase accountability for police departments around Colorado and would change how law enforcement investigates allegations of brutality.

Representative Leslie Herod, a Democrat from Denver, is one of the sponsors of the law enforcement integrity, transparency and accountability act.
“What we are looking at doing is ensuring that law enforcement is held to the highest standard and that if they act criminally, they are held to the same level of responsibility that you or I would be,” she said.

The bill would require body-worn cameras for police officers, and would require that the body cam footage be released within 7 days following an incident. The bill would also require law enforcement to track the race of people that they are stopping “so that we can see if there are issues of racial profiling, and act,” said Herod.

The bill would also remove qualified immunity, so law enforcement officers could be criminally prosecuted.

Denver’s police watchdog is investigating more than 150 complaints about officers’ response to the recent protests. The Denver Police Department will host an hour-long virtual town hall at 6 p.m. tonight so residents can discuss what policies they’d like to see moving forward.

A church in Northern Colorado has filed a lawsuit against state officials, including Governor Jared Polis, over state regulations that limit the capacity of churches during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Denver Post reports that the lawsuit was filed on May 25 by pastor Mark Hotaling and High Plains Harvest Church in Ault, in Weld County.

The lawsuit alleges religious organizations are being unfairly singled out while other businesses are opening up to patrons. They say the state wide orders that limit in-person gatherings to 10 people or less restricts how Coloradans worship and is a violation of the Constitution.

Testing for the coronavirus is ramping up in Colorado with help from Americorps and Senior Corps.

On Tuesday Governor Polis announced that 800 members of both programs will be helping the state,  primarily with contact tracing – tracking down people who may have been exposed to the virus and asking them to get tested themselves and quarantine if necessary.

Colorado health officials today gave updates on outdoor recreation under the state’s Safer at Home order which is in place until July 1.

Coloradans are encouraged to get outside – as long as they can maintain proper social distancing.

Pools and playgrounds will be allowed to open with restrictions, although an exact opening date has not yet been set. Final guidelines will be released tomorrow.

Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountain National Park will reopen for the season on Thursday. The road usually opens on Memorial Day but can have a delayed opening due to snow. This year the delay in opening is also a result of the coronavirus. The park recently reopened to the public but with restrictions. A reservation system to enter the park goes into effect on Thursday.

 

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For a sixth straight night thousands of protesters took over downtown Denver on Tuesday denouncing police brutality and calling for reform after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis more than a week ago.  Last night the police did not use tear gas, and there were no major conflicts.

The Denver Post reports that protesters moved from the State Capitol to Civic Center and then the 16th Street mall shouting, “No Justice. No Peace.”

The marchers made their way to Coors Field where they took to their knees. By the time the protesters reached Union Station, the crowd stretched for blocks.

At the State Capitol, hundreds more protesters rallied, listening to speeches, before marching down Broadway about 8 p.m.

After the 9 p.m.- curfew went into effect, demonstrators were persisted marching near 20th and Champa streets, and then illuminating the night at the Capitol with their cell phones.

Denver 7 reports that police officers were mostly on the sidelines.

Protests were underway Tuesday in other Colorado cities from Colorado Springs, to Longmont, to Gunnison, where the High Country News reported several hundred people were demonstrating.

A television reporter posted video of Colorado Springs police ordering protesters to disperse last night and then using tear gas. Tuesday marked the fourth consecutive day of demonstrations in Colorado Springs.

Denver police announced in a news release late Tuesday night they will host an hour-long virtual town hall at 6 p.m. tonight so residents can discuss what policies they’d like to see moving forward.

Denver City Council members are calling for an investigation into the city’s police department after officers injured bystanders, protesters and journalists during the protests.

The Denver Post reports that complaints have flooded in saying that law enforcement officers are targeting peaceful protesters, onlookers and clearly identified journalists with pepper balls, chemical sprays and nonlethal projectiles. Photos and videos have been posted on social media showing people at the protest with bloody faces, bruised bodies and teary faces using milk to calm gas irritants.

Nick Mitchell, Denver’s independent monitor of the city’s police and sheriff departments told the Colorado Sun that in the last 72 hours his office had received over 150 complaints from members of the public related to police conduct during the demonstrations.

Police Chief Paul Pazen and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have said officers have responded with force only after being hit by rocks, water bottles and other items. But videos have shown and Colorado Sun journalists have witnessed police using force without provocation on demonstrators.

Yesterday, Denver Police Department officials fired a police officer Tuesday for writing “Let’s start a riot” as a caption to a photo he posted on Instagram of himself and two other officers in riot gear.

Democratic state lawmakers have unveiled a sweeping bill aimed at increasing law enforcement accountability in Colorado by collecting racial profiling data, ensuring officers hold each other accountable and making it easier for the public to file lawsuits against police.

The measure could be introduced as soon as today.

Some Colorado law enforcement groups are jointly urging the legislature to take aim at the police code of silence, by speaking up on cops who fail to step in when the public is being abused.

Colorado Politics reports that the County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police are asking the General Assembly to make it a crime when fellow officers fail to intervene in the use of unreasonable force.

The groups said that an officer’s duty to intervene is an expectation of most law enforcement agencies in the state, but their proposal would make it the law, with criminal penalties.

Denver Public Schools are expected to begin a conversation about the role of police officers in Denver schools — with some district leaders pushing to remove them entirely.

School board member Tay Anderson tweeted Tuesday evening that board members and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova would gather Friday morning “to announce the future of Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department.”

Anderson added that he and board Vice President Jennifer Bacon would ask the community to help them draft a resolution that would end the district’s agreement with the city “as it relates to police in schools.”

Currently, the school district and the city split the cost of providing 18 police officers to work as “school resource officers” in some of the district’s secondary schools.

Students of color face disproportionately harsh discipline in. District statistics show black students, who make up 13% of students in Denver, are far more likely than white students to be suspended, expelled, handcuffed, or referred to law enforcement.

Boulder County continues a downward trend in reported coronavirus-related deaths and probable cases. Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach presented the latest report to Boulder City Council last night and said the number of cases has increased by two since Monday of this week.

To date, the number of Boulder County coronavirus-related deaths remained at 62. In Boulder County, Longmont continues to have the highest number of cases and most severe rate of infection.

Across Colorado as of yesterday hospitalizations for COVID-19 fell to their lowest level since late March; However, deaths directly linked to the new virus jumped.  It’s possible though that delayed reporting accounted for some of the increase.