Police Abuse

Colorado Police Reforms Mandate Body Cameras, Strip Bad Officers of Lawsuit Immunity

The legislation rolls back regulations that have been shielding bad police from accountability.


A long list of policing reforms has just been ushered into law in Colorado.

This morning, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed the Law Enforcement Integrity Bill, passed by the state's House and Senate last weekend. The legislation, S.B. 217, includes changes that criminal justice reformers have been demanding for years:

  • It will require officers to wear body cameras and to record interactions with the public that are initiated by the officer. (There are some exceptions to avoid recording personal information or unrelated contacts.) If the officer fails to follow this rule, statements or other evidence presented by that officer may be ruled inadmissible in court; the officer may also face discipline up to and including termination. If it's determined that a cop turned off a camera to conceal misconduct or obstruct justice, the officer's certification may be suspended for up to a year. If the incident involves the death of a civilian, the officer's certification may be permanently revoked. The bill includes a process for making body camera footage public and for redacting private information that the footage may have captured.
  • It will launch a database of police use-of-force incidents, documenting the type and severity of the force used, demographic data about the people subjected to the force, and instances where a police officer resigned while being investigated for misconduct. The state will host this database online in a searchable format.
  • It forbids officers from firing less-than-lethal projectiles (such as rubber or foam bullets) at a protester's head, pelvis, or back, and it bars cops from firing indiscriminately into crowds of protesters. When police use pepper spray or tear gas to disperse protests, they will be required to warn people first—and to give them time to comply with the orders before firing.
  • It will strip police officers of qualified immunity in civil court if they are sued for violating people's rights or for failing to intervene when they witness another officer violating a person's rights. These officers may be held personally liable. There is a two-year statute of limitation on filing a civil action against an officer under such circumstances.
  • It will formalize officers' duty to attempt to prevent excessive force by other police officers, will forbid law enforcement agencies from retaliating against officers who intervene in such cases, and will establish a misdemeanor offense for officers who fail to intervene.
  • It will establish an oversight board to examine police use of force. The oversight board will maintain a database of problem officers who have been caught engaging in misconduct or have been terminated.

"Millions of Americans have become part of our nation's largest civil rights demonstrations in half a century," Polis said in a speech before signing the bill. "This legislation specifically contains landmark evidence-based reforms that not only protect civil rights but will help restore trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve."