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Republican senators get behind Colorado's police accountability bill after new amendments

Republicans are coming around to the idea of police reform, just days after calling the Democrats' bill "revenge" against law enforcement.

DENVER — Some conservative Republicans in Colorado spoke out in support of the police accountability bill that was introduced last week.

Democrats, with a majority in both legislative houses, do not need Republican votes to pass the bill that would provide policy changes that Democrats say would increase police accountability and transparency.

The Enhanced Law Enforcement Integrity bill was debated by members of both parties on the Senate floor on Monday.

Assistant Minority Leader and former sheriff of Weld County Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley) offered his support following the addition of amendments that were discussed in committee over the weekend and on the Senate floor.

“You know, when I first looked at the bill, I have to admit I was pretty upset. I was pretty mad. It looked like, to me, it was a revenge or punishment bill. As a matter of fact, that’s what I called it,” Cooke said. “I said in committee that I was going to be a ‘no’ because of the way that bill read at that time, but that I’d like to get to a place where on second and third readings, that I could support the bill. And I’m here to say I support the bill.”

Cooke added he hoped his colleagues in law enforcement would also get behind the legislation.

"Most of our major concerns were addressed, and we think it's a good bill going forward for law enforcement and the communities," Cooke told Next with Kyle Clark.

Among the amendments was a change to the portion of the bill that mandated law enforcement interactions must be recorded and released to the public within two weeks. Critics, including Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, said this could impact reporters of sexual assault. A newly amended bill now says unedited video should be released within 14 days for "incidents where there's an allegation of police misconduct."

All video and audio recordings of a death must be given to the deceased person's family at least 24 hours before public release. If the video shows any nudity or highly personal information, the victim will have input on what should be redacted.

Other amendments addressed when it would be necessary to gather demographic data during stops (contacts initiated for law enforcement purposes) and added a provision that says body cameras would be needed Colorado State Patrol officers who conduct traffic stops.

The original bill, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver), also put an officer personally on the hook for a lawsuit up to $100,000, a section Cooke worked to change.

"They're not totally protected. If they operate outside the bounds of the policies and procedures or act inappropriately, the city can say, 'we're not going to indemnify and they're on the hook for the $25,000,' but they can use insurance to pay for it. In the original bill, they weren't allowed to use insurance," he said.

Currently, officers, deputies and troopers are immune from civil lawsuits holding them personally liable for their actions. This bill takes away some of that cover.

Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) offered his support of the bill, as well, with those and other amendments.

“I believe that this bill, if passed in its current form, will cause great uproar in some sectors until everyone takes a deep breath and looks at what is here, and what we must do as a community, as a state, as a nation,” he said, while voicing his support for law enforcement officers. “[The bill], I believe, will move us forward in changing the culture and changing our accountability.”

The changes were made with bipartisan suggestions.

"Every time they brought something up, it made sense," said Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora).

One provision of the bill that Fields is most interested in seeing implemented is the "duty to intervene."

"Another law enforcement officer sees something that's unethical, they have a moral and legal obligation to step in and to stop that behavior. That's huge," said Fields.

The Senate is scheduled to have a recorded vote on this bill on Tuesday. Again, it doesn't need any Republican votes to pass. Once it's through the Senate, it gets introduced in the House and assigned to a committee. That committee hearing will likely happen on Wednesday, with debate on the House floor on Thursday.

You can watch Monday's Senate hearing here.

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SUGGESTED VIDEO: Next with Kyle Clark