Lawmaker to write state guidelines for officers who return to work after a fatal shooting

AURORA, Colo. -- A new piece of legislation is in the works by a Colorado state senator to create guidelines for police officers before they return to work after being involved in a fatal shooting.

Senator Rhonda Fields says the legislation she's looking to propose would be a list of best practices for the entire state to follow. Fields says she thought about the idea for some time, but the incident involving an Aurora police officer and a veteran who was shot and killed in his home over the summer, inspired her to take action.

Body camera footage shows the moments leading up to the deadly officer involved shooting in Aurora. Gary Black was holding the gun he used to kill an intruder when a police officer shot and killed him.

That officer was involved in another fatal shooting just a month before the incident with Gary Black.

“A father, a husband, and a veteran lost their life defending their family and it was a tragic situation and the officer was returned back to work, I believe, far too soon, and he was involved in a another shooting, and to prevent that scenario from happening I just want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to make sure that someone’s fit for duty," Senator Rhonda Fields said. “It could be for example that the police officer goes back to the scene of the crime, it could be that they do some simulations as it relates to shooting, it could be that they practice using their guns, it could mean that they see a psychologist.”

A lot of the things Fields mentioned are already in place at the Aurora Police Department.

Drew Limbaugh, the officer who shot Black, was away from the force for about two weeks following the other shooting he was involved in.

Based on the Aurora Police Department's protocol, Limbaugh also made at least one visit with a psychologist. He also participated in both simulator training and live fire exercises.

A call to the Denver Police Department confirms they have similar guidelines as well.

“That is great, I just want to make sure that we have a statewide system in place," Fields said.

Jeff Johnson, a psychologist at the Medical Center of Aurora, says there's not a one size fits all when it comes to dealing with trauma.

“Specific guidelines would require each and every individual to have enough time to heal in their own capacity," Jeff Johnson said.

Johnson's advice is that guidelines are great, but they have to cater to each officer's specific needs. That's what Fields says she wants to do.

“I have a great confidence in the Aurora Police Department and the chief, I think they do a wonderful job protecting and serving our community, and so it’s not just about what happened in Aurora it’s really about policing across our state.”

Fields hasn't put a pen to paper yet. She has more research to do before a draft of the bill is actually written.

 

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