Elijah McClain, George Floyd deaths mark new era of police work

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Police work has changed following the deaths of George Floyd and Elijah McClain. Civil Rights advocates say even more change is needed.

The activities of police officers have been under a microscope over the course of the past year. Last year, Colorado joined other states in ushering in police accountability legislation — marking the start of a cultural shift in law enforcement.

When news of the indictments surrounding the death of Elijah McClain first broke, ACLU Colorado executive director Deborah Richardson thought about the struggles members of her community have faced and continue to face.

“Maybe we’re at a point of breakthroughs,” Richardson said. “We can start thinking of what this means … but more importantly think about the type of world and humanity that we want to have for all people.”

Policing has long been at the heart of the United States civil rights movement. Richardson said recent events are just the beginning of a long road toward reform.

“Certainly the conviction in the George Floyd case — these [McClain case] indictments, particularly including the paramedics— [are] absolutely a game-changer,” Richardson said.

Former Colorado police officer and current private investigator James Allbee said his former profession has changed in a short amount of time.

“There’s been a ton of retirements,” Allbee said. “Most law enforcement agencies are hiring … Honestly, nobody wants to do the work anymore.”

Colorado now bans police officers from using chokeholds.

“Going through the academy many years ago, that was one of those things that was kind of frowned upon and used as a very, very last resort technique,” Allbee said of chokeholds.

The future of ketamine is currently uncertain in Colorado. Paramedics in the state used the drug to control those who were agitated.

“With more current events, [ketamine] being more publicized … people are starting to look into that more,” Allbee said.

Richardson, with the Colorado ACLU, has concerns over the drug’s use.

“You don’t know the history of the patient,” she said. “You aren’t asking them for any information. You’re just violating their body rights. That has to stop.”

In Wednesday’s indictment, prosecutors described ketamine as a weapon. Colorado’s state health department is currently reviewing the use of ketamine. The review will change the circumstances in which the drug is administered.

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