Apr 5, 2021 - News

Democratic Colorado lawmakers push for police accountability

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.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more