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Denver Police try to keep dueling rallies separated from one another on Oct. 10, 2020. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Nearly a year after protests over the death of George Floyd and renewed attention to the 2019 killing of Elijah McClain, Democratic state lawmakers are taking steps to prevent both tragedies from happening again.

The state of play: Their two new bills come amid the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd.

  • The trial "has further highlighted the impact of state-sanctioned violence by law enforcement on communities," said Apryl Alexander, a psychology professor at the University of Denver and Black Lives Matter 5280 activist.

House Bill 1250, sponsored by two Denver lawmakers, builds upon Colorado’s police accountability bill passed in June that curtailed officers’ ability to use deadly force. It would:

  • Limit law enforcement's ability to use deadly force only as a "last resort" after all other deescalation strategies have been exhausted.
  • Eliminate qualified immunity for the Colorado State Patrol.
  • Require body cameras be worn when officers perform welfare checks.

House Bill 1251 responds directly to the McClain case and calls for guardrails for the use of ketamine outside of hospital settings.

  • The McClain incident showed ketamine was "used oftentimes in a reckless manner," Denise Maes, ACLU of Colorado’s public policy director, told Axios.

The other side: The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police has not yet taken a position on the bill, per a spokesperson for the group.

  • But some Colorado Republican lawmakers are actively opposing it. State Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley), a former sheriff in Weld County, called House Bill 1250 a “trap for law enforcement,” per the Colorado Sun.

The big picture: Activists want justice in Minneapolis and Colorado, but they aren’t confident it will come.

  • "We still fear that this cycle of intergenerational trauma due to state-sanctioned violence will continue," Alexander said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a comment from the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Protests erupt after police shoot Black driver near Minneapolis

Protesters create a chalk circle that reads "Justice for Daunte Wright" in the street in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Sunday. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Police fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop near Minneapolis Sunday, sparking protests and unrest that lasted into the night.

Between the lines: The shooting in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center, in Hennepin County, has further heightened tensions between police and the local community as the trial continues of former police officer Derek Chauvin, over the death of George Floyd.

John Frank, author of Denver
Apr 12, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado puts equity at the forefront of the state budget

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One word drew more attention this year as Colorado lawmakers crafted the $34.1 billion state budget: equity.

The new focus emerged in the months after George Floyd's May 2020 killing put race at the center of the conversation and huge demonstrations demanded action to address systemic discrimination.

Why it matters: The state spending package often targets programs for those in the most need, but this time discussion went further to reshape spending priorities in numerous state agencies.

Chauvin defense calls first witnesses as prosecution rests case

Protesters demand justice for George Floyd on April 9. Photo: Christopher Mark Juhn/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's lawyers called their first witnesses on Tuesday, as the prosecution rested its case in a murder trial expected to hold closing arguments as early next week.

The state of play: The prosecution called dozens of witnesses in the trial's first 11 days to testify that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen due to police restraint, and not from the use of drugs or a pre-existing heart condition. On Tuesday morning, the defense sought to make a case for the latter.