Colorado House Advances Bill to Protect Police Whistleblowers Amid Opposition

Colorado House Bill 24-1460, aiming to shield police whistleblowers from retaliation, advances in a preliminary vote despite law enforcement opposition. The revised bill tasks a working group with developing a state policy to protect police whistleblowers before the next legislative session.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Colorado House Advances Bill to Protect Police Whistleblowers Amid Opposition

Colorado House Advances Bill to Protect Police Whistleblowers Amid Opposition

The Colorado House has taken a significant step towards protecting police officers who report misconduct within their ranks. House Bill 24-1460, which aims to shield whistleblowers from retaliation, advanced in a preliminary vote on Thursday despite facing opposition from law enforcement groups.

Why this matters: This legislation has far-reaching implications for police accountability and transparency, as it sets a precedent for protecting officers who speak out against misconduct. If passed, it could inspire similar reforms in other states, leading to a cultural shift in law enforcement that prioritizes integrity and accountability.

The bill's progress was stalled for several days as lawmakers grappled with proposed changes to appeaselaw enforcement leaders. The original version of the bill included provisions requiring investigations into alleged misconduct and establishing a misdemeanor crime for officers who fail to report misconduct by their peers. However, these measures were finally removed from the amended bill.

Instead, the revised bill tasks a working group with developing a state policy to protect police whistleblowers before the next legislative session. Rep. Matt Soper, a Delta Republican, emphasized the importance of getting the policies right, stating, "We want to make sure we get the policies right."

Despite the amendments, the bill still includes key provisions such as longer retention of police records and prohibiting government agencies from charging fees for making unedited police body-worn camera videos available for public scrutiny. These measures aim to increase transparency and accountability within law enforcement.

Proponents of the bill, including Denver Democratic Reps. Leslie Herod and Jennifer Bacon, argue that passing the measure is urgent for officers who have come forward to lawmakers and testified about their efforts to expose misconduct. One such officer is former Edgewater Police Officer McKinzie Rees, who was sexually assaulted twice by a sergeant and is still barred from working in the state because supervisors put her name on a list of problem police officers maintained by the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

Rees, who was forced to resign after reporting the sexual assaults, sees the bill as a starting point in the right direction. "This is a start. We are doing the right thing. Nothing worth it is ever easy," she stated, emphasizing the importance of protecting whistleblowers like herself.

The bill now requires a final House vote before moving to the Senate for consideration. If passed, it will mark a significant step towards creating a safer environment for police officers who speak out against misconduct and corruption within their departments. The outcome of this legislation will have far-reaching implications for the future of policing in Colorado and could serve as a model for other states dealing with similar issues.

Key Takeaways

  • CO House Bill 24-1460 aims to protect police whistleblowers from retaliation.
  • Bill tasks a working group with developing a state policy to protect whistleblowers.
  • Measure includes longer retention of police records and free access to bodycam videos.
  • Bill's passage could inspire similar reforms in other states, promoting police accountability.
  • Final House vote and Senate consideration are next steps for the bill.