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'Inaction should be condemned as harshly as unjust force,' Colorado law enforcement groups call for 'duty to intervene' law

Three police groups are calling on state lawmakers to strengthen laws if officers don't intervene if they witness excessive force.
Credit: Jonathan@JonathanPhillipsPhotography.com
Protestors take to the the streets of Denver after leaving the Colorado State Capitol on Monday, June 1, 2020. Thousands of people gathered throughout the afternoon to protest the murder of George Floyd. Photo: Jonathan Phillips

DENVER — Three organizations that represent Colorado members of law enforcement are calling on the state legislature to make it a crime when officers fail to intervene in cases of unreasonable force.

“We are shocked and disgusted by the indefensible use of force that led to George Floyd's recent death in Minneapolis. We are equally appalled, however, by the lack of intervention displayed by the other officers who were on the scene,” said Broomfield Police Chief Gary Creager, chair of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

The County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police put out a statement Tuesday requesting that current state law be strengthened. The move comes just over a week after the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after a white officer held his knee on his neck for several minutes. In a video of the incident that's been seen around the world, Floyd can be heard saying numerous times that he can't breathe.

RELATED: Minnesota Dept. of Human Rights files civil rights charge against Minneapolis police

The officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck was fired and has been charged with third-degree murder.

The other officers seen in the video have been fired but so far have not been charged. In the video, none of them are seen taking any action to assist Floyd.

“We will not sit idly by. Inaction should be condemned as harshly as unjust force," Creagar said. "We have heard that our community wants increased accountability, and today we urge the Colorado Legislature, in the short time they have remaining in the session, to add a Duty to Intervene to state statue.”

Duty to Intervene is already an expectation for most Colorado law enforcement agencies, according to the police groups, and this change would make it a statutory requirement, and make it so officers could face criminal prosecution.

“We understand this is only a first step, but it is a step in the right direction and one that can be accomplished now, in solidarity,” said Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins, president of the County Sheriffs of Colorado. “There is more work to be done to ensure accountability. We look forward to working with lawmakers and our communities to address additional concerns together. “

RELATED: What local law enforcement agencies are saying about the death of George Floyd

The organizations are calling for changes to the current Duty to Report Use of Force outlined in CRS 18-8-802, including directing officers to intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force, when possible, and then to report such use of unreasonable force to the officer's immediate supervisor.

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