Chauvin verdict reignites conversation around jail population bill in Colorado

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — A bill garnering support and opposition at the Capitol is making waves again after the Chauvin verdict. Supporters of Senate bill 62 say it is designed to help reduce the state’s prison population, but opponents think it may let people off the hook when committing a crime.

Some lawmakers are calling for it to pass again after Tuesday’s decision about Chauvin.

“Right now, under Senate Bill 62, George Floyd would not have been subject to arrest as he is today,” said ACLU of Colorado Director of Public Policy Denise Maes.

The bill at the Colorado Capitol would prohibit a peace officer from arresting people if they’re suspected of committing traffic offenses or petty crimes like small-time theft or lying to get benefits. It includes some low-level drug crimes too.

Supporters say the measure would stop an incident like George Floyd’s if it were law here.

“That exact same offense is a fifth-degree felony here in Colorado and he would be subject to arrest. And it seems kind of ludicrous, frankly, that he should have ever been arrested,” Maes said.

That’s the goal of sponsors and advocates: to reduce the number of arrests and incarcerations in Colorado by also eliminating cash bond for minor offenses as well.

But 14 sheriffs and chiefs around the state are speaking out against the measure. In a letter, they said it is important to review prison practices but “taking away law enforcement officers’ ability to arrest and incarcerate jeopardizes public safety and sends the wrong message to individuals who commit crimes.”

The bill has not moved much since being introduced, but the state’s Black Caucus is calling for a shift.

“The reason why there needs to be a Senate bill 62 is because we are harassed, we are targeted, seen as threats and we are met with force even for the smallest suspicion and that has to change,” said caucus president Leslie Herod.

While there is strong opposition, supporters note Attorney General Phil Weiser is backing the effort along with several district attorneys and the La Plata County Sheriff.

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