Opposition to jail depopulation bill growing from law enforcement

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature right now aims to reduce jail over-crowding and save the state money. But a growing number of law enforcement officials are speaking out against it, saying it will make communities less safe.

SB21-062 “prohibits a peace officer from arresting a person based solely on the alleged commission of a traffic offense; petty offense; municipal offense; misdemeanor offense; a class 4, 5, or 6 felony; or a level 3 or 4 drug felony.”

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock held a virtual community meeting to voice his opposition.

“Shoplifting, auto theft, burglary, there’s an arson in there. It encompasses a large array of criminal behavior. Essentially, what this bill does is it eliminates the consequences of being arrested and being in jail. It also allows the defendant to miss court up to three times. They can choose to go to court if they want to, they can miss it three times before a warrant is issued for their arrest.” he said.

Spurlock noted the bill does not apply to crimes against persons or violent crimes. But he said at a time when car thefts are up dramatically, this bill concerns him. 

“If this bill passes, those individuals don’t go to jail. Those individuals get left alone right there on the street. We impound the car they just freshly stole, and we have to drive away and leave them there, issue them a summons for a particular crime. And they quite frankly go right back to stealing more cars and violating other people’s property without any consequences,” he said.

The Parker Police Department also opposes the bill.

“When you call the police, you expect something to be resolved. You expect the police to do something about it. If this bill passes, we show up, we find the bad guy that just broke into your car, we write them a ticket, we drive off and they are still standing there in your driveway,” Commander Chris Peters said.

It’s not just Douglas County opposing the legislation, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office released a statement that said, “Jefferson County should not continue to be the subject of a social experiment that handcuffs law enforcement rather than the individuals who harm and victimize our citizens.”  

But Denise Maes, Public Policy Director for the ACLU of Colorado said there are good reasons to support this bill.

“We support pretrial justice reform that honors the principle of innocent until proven guilty. We are interested in waning us off our addiction to jails. For so many years, we have incarcerated many people for minor crimes, and we are no safer. It is time to find another pay. Putting people in jail is tearing families apart,” she said, adding that any individual who presents a safety risk is subject to arrest, at the discretion of law enforcement officers on the streets.

Both sides encourage residents to contact their local representatives to share their opinions. The next hearing will likely take place late next week.

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