On June 3, 2020, a bill to “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity” was introduced in the Colorado Senate under SB 20-217 (“SB 217”).  Based on previous efforts and in an attempt to mirror the push to create a Nationwide policing standard, SB 217 is intended to address recent events involving the use of force by police officers.

Some of the more pertinent provisions of SB 217 include:

  1. Requiring all police and peace officers to wear and activate body-worn cameras when interacting with the public.
  2. Requiring all recordings of an “incident” to be released to the public within 14 days after the incident.
  3. Requiring the creation of an annual report by the division of criminal justice, in the department of public safety to be aggregated and broken down by each submitting state or local agency, and which shall include:
    1. All incidents involving use of force which results in death or serious bodily injury
    2. All incidents where an officer resigned while under investigation for violating departmental policy
    3. All data relating to stops conducted by its peace officers, and;
    4. All data related to the use of an unannounced entry by a peace officer.

All data related to the use of an unannounced entry by a peace officer.A statewide database shall be maintained, and any state or local law enforcement agency failing to meet its reporting requirements, will be subjected to suspension of funding by the appropriating authority.

The provisions of SB 217 specifically allow an aggrieved person the right to bring a civil lawsuit for a violation of their Constitutional rights secured by the Colorado constitution.  There is no guidance on the pursuit of a complaint in conjunction with a lawsuit brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.  SB 217 allows recovery of attorney’s fees for a plaintiff who is successful as well as recovery of attorney’s fees for a defendant who establishes the lawsuit was frivolous.

One of the more significant portions of SB 217 as it relates to civil litigation, is the elimination of the qualified immunity defense, which is provided for under both US Supreme Court and pertinent 10th Circuit Court case law.  In addition, SB 217 specifically eliminates any potential defense based on the law enforcement officer’s good faith but erroneous belief in the lawfulness of their conduct.

Indemnification by the state and the governmental agency is provided.  However, of significant note is the requirement that a law enforcement officer pay the first 5% of any judgment or settlement, up to the first $100,000.

For any further questions regarding SB 217, please feel free to contact Mark S. Ratner, (303) 628-3337.