Colorado became the first state in the nation to act on police reform Friday. The parents of a 19-year-old Colorado Springs man killed by police last summer stood behind the Gov. Jared Polis as the police reform bill was signed.
The parents of De’Von Bailey, who was shot in the back and killed by Colorado Springs police as he ran away from them during a suspected robbery stop last August, stood and watched over Polis' shoulder as Senate Bill 217 into law.
The shooting, which happened last August, was deemed justified by an El Paso County grand jury in November. The family is now suing the Colorado Springs Police Department, claiming Bailey's constitutional rights were violated.
The officers said they fired because they feared Bailey was reaching for a weapon. The 19-year-old later was found to have a pistol in the pocket of his shorts.
The shooting sparked protests and calls for an independent investigation.
“I sat in there and I watched the governor sign this bill, which came a little too late. A lot too late,” Greg Bailey told the crowd outside the Capitol. “I’m hurt. I don’t know how to feel, but, how should I feel that it had to take something happening to another black man in another state for anything to happen here in Colorado? Everything they did to my son ... is now the law.”
The new law eliminates the qualified immunity defense that protects police officers from lawsuits and it now allows them to be sued for misconduct.
The law also bans chokeholds and limits other uses of force and prohibits police from aiming non-lethal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters’ heads, pelvises or backs.
The law requires all local and Colorado State Patrol officers who have contact with the public to be equipped with body cameras by July 1, 2023. Unedited footage from body cameras must be released to the public within 21 days of the filing of misconduct complaints.
The law also bars police from using deadly force against suspects they believe are armed unless there is an imminent threat of a weapon being used as suspects attempt to escape.
Grand juries under the law will be required to release reports when they decide against charging officers accused in deaths.
The bill also mandates that the division of criminal justice maintain a statewide database with data collected in a format which can be searchable by the public.
Colorado’s law enforcement community came out with a statement following the measure’s signing, saying that many of the requirements are already in place. Still, it stated, “Senate Bill 217 is an example of a collaborative process to help ensure justice and policing in Colorado is transparent and fair. So many people — advocates, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and law enforcement — worked tirelessly to improve accountability.”