GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (KDVR) — The Greenwood Village City Council on Monday approved a resolution aimed at protecting police officers from personal financial liability if they are accused of misconduct, such as excessive force.
“We need to be considerate of, is making sure we retain and are able to recruit the officers that we want and we need,” said Greenwood Village Mayor George Lantz during the council meeting.
The City Council’s decision comes after the signing of the Law Enforcement Integrity Act (SB20-2017). The new law aims to increase police accountability in Colorado. Notably, it ends qualified immunity, allowing law enforcement officers to be personally sued for alleged misconduct.
“What I do think is this has created a lot of anxiety in good police officers,” said Cory Christensen, president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. “This has created challenges for police chiefs all over the state.”
Christensen says the resolution sends a strong message of supporting law enforcement, and believes there are other positions within the Law Enforcement Integrity Act that helps keep officers accountable.
“Some of the decertification provisions and things like that, I really appreciate those because I don’t want bad police officers either,” Christensen said.
But lawmakers who championed the bill believe the move is a bad look, considering the movement happening across the country.
“What they’re also saying is that taxpayers will pay for officers to act in bad faith, and that’s just wrong,” said State Rep. Leslie Herod, who was one of the bill’s biggest advocates.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser took to Twitter, reacting to the news, saying, “This is wrong. We can’t let this stand.”
Under the resolution, police officers in the southern Denver suburb would be protected if they were sued.
“The Greenwood Village City Council resolves to in all cases defend any police officer in
any suit or proceeding brought under SB 20-217 and pay or indemnify its police officers
against all expenses, court costs, including expert fees, court fees, attorney fees,
judgments, fines and amounts paid in settlement or satisfaction of judgment actually
incurred by them in connection with such action, suit or proceeding,” the resolution reads, in part.
The full resolution can be read on the Greenwood Village website.
Legal experts point out that city resolutions don’t have as much teeth as an ordinance, and believe this move is more a symbolic support of law enforcement.
Denise Maes, public policy director for American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, shared the following on the resolution:
“The Law Enforcement Accountability Act certainly permits and, in fact, mandates an employer to indemnify its peace officers. I do hope Greenwood Village, however, has read the exception in the law and that is IF the employer (Greenwood Village) Concludes that the officer did not act ‘in good faith or reasonable belief’ that the conduct was lawful, then the officer is PERSONALLY liable for up to $25,000. That’s the law notwithstanding any City resolution.”
On Thursday, the Greenwood Village Police Department issued a statement in response to the resolution.
GVPD said, in part:
“We have developed a culture over years of intense professional management and training where officers will intervene should they consider a fellow officer to have engaged in excessive force and have no problem with reporting that activity through the chain of command. We provide 300 hours of training each year to enforce and reinforce professional policies including the minimal use of force, community policing and respect for everyone that they encounter. We hire only those individuals who already accept the professional principles that are part of our culture.”
The department’s full statement can be found online.