Headlines July 7, 2021

Headlines July 7, 2021

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Governor Signs Police Reform Bills into Law

Yesterday Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a new law into effect that requires police to release body camera footage within 21 days after a complaint is made about an officer’s conduct.

The new provision takes effect immediately and mandates that the release of recordings not be redacted, with a few exceptions.

The new law also removes qualified immunity for State Patrol officers and agents of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That legal defense protected officers from liability in civil actions based on alleged misconduct. Other law enforcement officials have had their qualified immunity removed by other legislation.

Other police reform laws signed by Polis yesterday reclassify misdemeanors, and in general, reduce penalties for them. And another requires bond hearings within 48 hours after a person is arrested.

The reforms come in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Elijah McClain in Aurora among others, and the protests that followed.

Governor Signs Law Banning Plastics

The governor also signed a new law yesterday that bans single use plastic bags and polystyrene packaging. The bill is aimed at getting consumers and businesses to reduce their use of the products.

The ban goes into effect January 1, 2024, and, starting a year earlier in 2023, retailers across the state must start charging a 10 cent fee for bags including paper. The city of Denver and other municipalities have already imposed those fees, with Boulder doing so years ago.

There are several exemptions under the new law such as restaurants and shops with three or fewer locations in the state, as long as they are not a chain with other locations outside the state.

The new plastics law was passed by Democrats in the state legislature without any Republican support.

COVID-19 Vaccination Data Released as Colorado Is among Highest in Country for Deaths

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported yesterday that in six counties more than 70 percent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In another 24 counties, at least half of those eligible have been fully immunized through shots.

However, the Colorado Sun reports that in parts of the state where large numbers of people have not been vaccinated, the virus could thrive. And this could result in patchiness around the state in how the pandemic affects people.

For example, currently, in western Colorado’s Mesa County, the vaccination rate is low and cases are being driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant. Hospitals there have been overwhelmed with 96 percent of beds occupied over the holiday weekend. In contrast, in the Denver metro area were vaccination rates are significantly higher, only 80 percent of hospital beds were occupied.

While vaccination rates in some parts of the state are high, recent data shows that Colorado has one of the highest death rates in the country. NBC News reports that only Michigan, Georgia and West Virginia have had more deaths per 100,000 people than Colorado. The Delta variant could be the reason according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Colorado is one of the 10 states where the hyper transmissible variant is the dominant strain.

Dr. Michelle Barron, of UC Health told 9News that the Delta variant is more contagious and has been shown to make people sicker.

Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Under Investigation

The former Chief Judge of the Colorado Supreme Court is under investigation by the state for his role in awarding a contract to an official who threatened to disclose information in a sex-discrimination lawsuit.

The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel’s office is examining the conduct of former Chief Justice Nathan Coats. The investigation is being conducted with the assistance of two lawyers from Chicago who have experience in attorney misconduct.

The investigation focuses on a contract that was given to a former judicial department staff member who was facing termination over financial irregularities that the Post revealed 2 years ago. It may be the first time that a state supreme court justice has been investigated.

Judge Denies Request to Stop Boulder’s Funding of Rocky Flats Connection

A judge has denied a request to stop the City of Boulder from funding a connection between trails into the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The site was a facility that made nuclear weapons components.

The judge dismissed the challenge to stop the city’s funding, but allowed it to be refiled if the plaintiffs choose to.

Find the full report in today’s Morning Magazine.

New Diversity Vice Chancellor Appointed for CU Boulder

The University of Colorado Boulder has appointed a new official for diversity, equity and inclusion.  Sonia DeLuca Fernández, who has worked at Pennsylvania State University will take the new position.

According to a statement from CU, in her new role, DeLuca Fernández will provide direction for programs and strategies to improve campus culture. She starts Sept. 1.