2020 Leg Session, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Exclusives, Featured, Legal, Original Report, Politics, Scott Weiser, Taxes, Uncategorized

Police accountability bill exempts most state peace officers, avoids ‘crippling’ fiscal impact

DENVER–The “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity” bill, Senate bill SB20-217, first introduced June 3, was substantially amended and passed during Senate floor work Tuesday and amended again by the House Finance Committee Wednesday, but still excludes all state law enforcement officers (LEOs) other than the Colorado State Patrol.

The exclusion of other state-level LEOs including juvenile detention, parks and wildlife, parole, mental health, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, ports of entry and revenue enforcement and investigations officers–all together 1,307 certified peace officers–trims more than $11 million in anticipated state expenditures.

This leaves local law enforcement agencies to seek discretionary funds from a state-operated body-worn camera grant program that favors agencies “that otherwise lack moneys to pay for body-worn cameras” in competition with other agencies.

“In order to avoid a crippling fiscal note because they’re in the hole 3.2 billion bucks, they exempt state law enforcement,” said 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler in a radio interview with 630 KHOW radio host Ross Kaminsky last Friday, prior to the Senate amendments.

The bill’s fiscal note estimates that for local agencies cameras cost $2,250 each plus an ongoing annual $1,200 per year for data storage and licensing. An example in the fiscal note for an agency requiring 100 cameras shows costs of $345,000 for the first year and $125,000 per year thereafter.

Local taxpayers appear to be on the hook for the cameras and associated costs where grants are not available or are denied.

The bill, as originally published on the General Assembly’s website, had a fiscal note dated June 4 that showed “State Fiscal Impacts under SB 20-217” of $1,657,470 for fiscal year 2020-12 and $1,211,530 for fiscal year 2021-22 for a total expected impact of $2,869,000 for two years.

But the fiscal impact if all state officers were included was only shown in a version of the fiscal note Brauchler described in the radio interview as “super secret.”

“Here’s the thing, there is a super secret, only-gets-released-later draft version of bills that go to the money people that do the fiscal note and that part wasn’t released to the public before it was sent to the the money people,” Brauchler told Kaminsky. “They did that in order to have a low fiscal note when it finally gets publicized.”

The second “super secret” fiscal note, now published on the legislature’s website, that includes fiscal impacts if all state peace officers are included shows impacts of $11,262,070 for fiscal year 2020-21 and $7,636,773 for fiscal year 2021-22 for a two-year fiscal impact of $18,898,843.

During Senate floor amendments the Colorado State Patrol was added to the list of covered LEOs and a new, third fiscal impact statement has been created and was considered by the House Finance Committee Wednesday, where 15 mostly technical amendments were made.

The third fiscal note included projections for four years totaling $8,013,174.

Most of those expenses are for support services, data storage and added state employees needed to deal with the reporting the bill requires from local law enforcement agencies, which is substantial.

It requires detailed reporting by local law enforcement on:

  • All use of force by its officers that results in death or serious bodily injury;
  • All instances when an officer resigned while under investigation for violating department policy;
  • All data relating to stops conducted by its peace officers; and
  • All data related to the use of an unannounced entry by a peace officer.

A searchable database of this information must be created by the state division of criminal justice and be available to the public.

A separate database collating information on individual officers must include entries for:

  • Untruthfulness;
  • Repeated failure to follow POST Board training requirements;
  • Decertification by the POST Board; and
  • Termination for cause.

A fourth fiscal note was added late Thursday with no changes to the projected costs.

The bill removes qualified immunity from local law enforcement officers, which includes district attorneys and their deputies, sheriff’s and their deputies, jail guards and all city police officers or town marshals.

“This is another thing that I find incredibly hypocritical and and really disrespectful of the idea that this is based on principle not politics. They take qualified immunity away, they take away the good faith defense for law enforcement, but not across the board,” Brauchler said.

It makes statements introduced in a prosecution that were not recorded by the officer’s body camera “presumptively inadmissible.”

It also creates a state civil cause of action for persons claiming they were deprived of their rights under the Colorado Constitution.

But it doesn’t remove qualified immunity from 2,087 state law enforcement officers excluded from the law.

Removed from the bill was a provision requiring that the first $200,000 of any judgment covered by the agency’s liability insurance come first out of the “political subdivisions public safety budget,” or if the budget is less than $200,000, at least 25% of the public safety budget be appropriated towards the settlement before liability coverage would kick in.

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