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House approves police accountability bill in 52-13 vote, one step away from Polis signature

Senate Bill 217 would enact a range of reforms from eliminating chokeholds and allowing officers to be sued for liability to creating new body-worn camera standards.

DENVER —

In a bipartisan vote of 52-13, the House of Representatives gave final approval to a package of reforms to disclose, deter and discipline excessive uses of force by police officers, an effort to halt further slayings at the hands of law enforcement.

"There’s nothing new about black and brown Coloradans feeling a target on their backs," said House Speaker K.C. Becker, D-Boulder. "It shouldn’t take viral videos of police brutality or massive protests all over the country to jolt us into action. But in any case, I'm glad we’re here now."

Starting to cry, Becker addressed bill sponsor Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, who handed Becker a tissue and patted her reassuringly on the back. "Thank you for helping this body make history today," Becker continued. "Today we're honoring the memory of George Floyd and every other victim of police violence with action. We’re channeling our sympathy, our empathy, our sadness and our rage into making lasting change."

Senate Bill 217, introduced last week, contains several provisions discussed in recent years to address police use of force and accountability standards. Among the provisions would be mandated body-worn camera usage and disclosure of footage by local departments and the Colorado State Patrol, a ban on chokeholds, and the ability to sue officers directly for their conduct. An amendment added in response to the racial justice protests would place limits on departments' use of chemical agents and projectiles when handling protesters.

In the final vote, 11 Republicans joined all Democrats in passing the measure. Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement saying he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk. Read it in full below: 

"I commend the sponsors and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their efforts to pass this landmark reform bill.

This is about a pattern of injustice and unfair treatment that Black Americans and communities of color have endured, not only in our criminal justice system but also in aspects of every day life.

Coloradans should be proud our state is leading the way to make policing more accountable, restore trust in law enforcement, uphold an individual’s civil liberties, and lay the groundwork for future discussions of criminal and juvenile justice reform.

I am honored to be here at this moment of time, alongside so many passionate Coloradans on the journey towards a more equal, more just, and more peaceful society as I sign SB20-217 when it reaches my desk." 

> Continue reading this story at Colorado Politics.

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