Measures to Address Law Enforcement Accountability
The act makes changes to the provisions of Senate Bill 20-217, enacted in 2020, (SB 217) to provide clarity and address issues discovered since the passage of that bill. SB 217 used the term "exonerated", but never defined it; the act defines "exonerated" and further clarifies the term "contact".
The act clarifies some of the circumstances when a body-worn camera must be operating and provisions related to the release of the footage. The act changes the requirement that body-worn camera recordings be released within 21 days from the date of the complaint of misconduct to within 21 days from the date of the request for the video recording. The act states the sanctions for failing to activate a body-worn camera and the 21-day release requirement will take effect on passage of the act if the officer is wearing a body camera and the other body-camera provisions apply on or after July 1, 2022, if an officer is wearing a body-worn camera, even though the requirement for all officers to wear a body camera does not take effect until July 1, 2023. The act requires $2 million to be appropriated to the body-worn camera for law enforcement officers grant program in fiscal year 2021-22.
SB 217 required law enforcement to report certain information related to each contact an officer has with a person beginning January 1, 2023. The act changes the start date of the reporting requirement to April 1, 2022. The act clarifies and adds to some of the information that must be reported.
If a peace officer is convicted of, found civilly liable for, or found liable in an administrative proceeding for unlawful use of force or failure to intervene, the officer certification must be revoked if death or serious bodily injury occurred or, if serious bodily injury or death did not occur, then the certification must suspended for at least a year. The act creates a process to allow a peace officer to have a hearing by an administrative law judge to determine whether the peace officer's certification should be suspended or revoked.
The act prohibits a peace officer's employer or the employer's agent from discharging; disciplining; demoting; denying a promotion, transfer, or reassign; discriminating against; harassing; or threatening a peace officer's employment because the peace officer disclosed information that shows:
- A danger to public health or safety; or
- A violation of law or policy committed by another peace officer.
Under current law, there is a civil action that permits suit against employers of local law enforcement officers for misconduct. The act permits the Colorado state patrol to also be sued via that civil action. The act also requires the employer to conduct an investigation of an officer prior to determining if the officer acted in good faith.
If a person believes that a law enforcement agency has violated the investigation requirement, the person must submit a complaint to the P.O.S.T. board, which shall refer the complaint to an administrative law judge to determine whether a violation occurred. The administrative law judge shall notify the P.O.S.T. board chair of a finding that a violation occurred. If a violation is found, the P.O.S.T. board shall not provide P.O.S.T. cash fund money to the employer for one full year from the date of the finding.
Peace officers are required to intervene to prevent or stop unlawful force by another peace officer; the act clarifies the duty only applies to officers while on duty.
The act requires that prior to hiring a new employee, appointing a new employee, or transferring an existing employee to a position requiring P.O.S.T. certification, a law enforcement agency shall determine if the person has a record contained in the P.O.S.T. misconduct database. If the person is listed in the database and the law enforcement agency proceeds to employ the person in a position requiring P.O.S.T. certification, the agency shall notify the P.O.S.T. board of the hire, appointment, or transfer.
The act clarifies and adds to some of the information required to be included in the P.O.S.T. board database related to peace officer misconduct. The act requires the P.O.S.T. board to adopt procedures to allow a peace officer to seek review of the officer's status in the database.
The act requires a governmental entity that encrypts its radio communications to adopt an encryption policy to provide access to unencrypted radio transmissions for members of the media.
The act requires the attorney general to convene a study group to study procedures related to the use of no-knock entry warrants and forced entry. The attorney general shall include the study group's findings in its annual "SMART Act" hearing for the 2022 legislative session.
The act requires the division of local government in the department of local affairs to contract with a nationally recognized research and consulting entity that is an expert in data-driven, evidence-based policing that is community-focused for an independent study to assess and provide a report and findings on evidenced-based policing national best practices. The consulting entity shall complete an interim study no later than December 30, 2021, and the final study no later than July 1, 2022. An advisory committee is created to the oversee the study and make legislative recommendations based on the studies.
For the 2021-22 state fiscal year, the act appropriates $4,065,016 to the department of public safety, of which $3,101,748 is from the general fund and $963,268 is from the highway users tax fund and provides an additional 13.5 FTE. The act appropriates $582,742 from the risk management fund to the department of law and provides an additional 3.0 FTE. The act appropriates $250,000 from the general fund to the department of local affairs.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)