Larimer County sheriff concerned about police accountability bill

Politics

DENVER (KDVR) — A bill supporters say is designed to end police brutality is receiving sharp backlash from sheriffs across Colorado.

Senate Bill 217 was introduced Tuesday, following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 
It would require Colorado police officers to wear body cameras and record all interactions with the public. That video would be made available for anyone to request. 

“We’re going from a due process jury trial, to a mandated trial by social media,” says Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith. 

Smith posted a number of concerns on his Facebook page Thursday, referring to the bill as the “Colorado Anti Privacy and Surveillance Bill.”

One of those concerns is with victims’ rights, which Smith says could be violated by the bill.

One example Smith posed is police being forced to record and release interviews with sexual assault victims. 

“We go in during the most difficult times with that individual. We ask them some of the most personal questions,” he says. “Those are extremely, extremely sensitive investigations.” 

“With that, within 14 days, everything, everything without question is released to anybody, unedited,” he adds.

Smith is also concerned with removing qualified immunity, which provides protections against officers being sued. 

Under the bill, people would be able to sue officers for up to $100,000. 

“All that qualified immunity does, is take officers acting in good faith — following the rules and simply make a mistake — it provides them reasonable protections,” says Smith. “This law, unfortunately, will drive out the best folks, and it will make it harder to recruit.”

Broomfield Police Chief Gary Creager says he also has concerns about that portion. 

“That’s another place where there’s a good chance for dialogue so that good police officers are protected, and bad police officers aren’t,” he says. 

The bill would also include a ban on chokeholds and measures to prevent officers who are fired from one department to get hired at another. Craeger says he supports both of those reforms. 

“In my view, the police are not just the police for the community, but they’re the police for themselves,” he says. 

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