The newest legislation in Colorado regarding police misconduct and civil rights is the Law Enforcement Integrity Act. This act was signed into law in 2022 and went into effect on July 1, 2023. It aims to increase police accountability and transparency by requiring law enforcement agencies to adopt policies and procedures to prevent and address police misconduct while building trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
Changes included in the legislation
The use of body cameras: This measure aims to provide an objective record of encounters between officers and civilians, which can be used as evidence in investigations or legal proceedings. This law requires all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, mandates the release of body camera footage within 21 days of a complaint of misconduct, prohibits the use of chokeholds except in situations where deadly force is justified, and establishes a statewide database to track incidents of use of force by law enforcement officers.
History has shown that officers will often lie — both for themselves and each other — regarding encounters with the public. They have lied about what people said, whether they had a weapon, and whether any physical interaction even took place. But video doesn’t lie. The Elijah McClain case in 2020 is a perfect example of this. The body cam footage captured the encounter between police officers and Elijah McClain, a young black man who died after being put in a chokehold. The footage helped shed light on the excessive force used by the officers, leading to public outrage and calls for change that resulted in this legislation. The situation with George Floyd is another good example. The officers completely left out the use of force when writing their reports, but both their body cam footage as well as phone videos taken by witnesses showed differently. And that resulted in the officers not only being fired but also prosecuted for their illegal and deadly actions.
Bias training and de-escalation techniques: Bias refers to discrimination and training officers to treat everyone equally, regardless of color, gender, age, or other discrimination classes. Data clearly shows that people of color are often treated much worse and often experience a higher rate of police violence. De-escalation refers to the range of verbal and nonverbal skills that officers can use to de-escalate a situation, make proper threat assessments, and hopefully reduce the likelihood that a situation will escalate into a physical confrontation. By providing officers with the necessary tools to identify and address implicit biases, and diffuse potentially volatile situations, the act aims to reduce the likelihood of excessive use of force incidents.
More rights for police misconduct victims
The act gives survivors of police misconduct enhanced civil remedies and allows for the decertification of officers who engage in serious misconduct. This means that officers found guilty of significant violations of departmental policies or laws may lose their certification and be prevented from working in law enforcement in the future. Preventing bad cops from remaining on the force is a big step towards reducing police misconduct.
The act also allows victims to seek compensation and justice for any harm or rights violations they may have suffered. Furthermore, the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act makes officers personally liable in some lawsuits. This provision reinforces that law enforcement officers are not above the law and should be held accountable for their actions.
What to do if you’re the victim of police misconduct
While these reforms aim to increase accountability and prevent future instances of police misconduct, they can’t fix everything. If you believe you are the victim of police misconduct, you have rights but there are time limits to file your complaint. Having a civil rights attorney can help you navigate the process and get better results. Please call us for a free consultation.