A new bill proposed in the Colorado house aims to raise the bar for law enforcement’s use of deadly force.
According to the Colorado Sun, House Bill 1250 stipulates that law enforcement officers use deadly force only as a “last resort” and after having “exhausted all reasonable de-escalation tactics and techniques.”
The bill, as part of a broader set of police accountability legislation, would also limit officers’ use of deadly force to situations where they or the public face a proportional danger, and prohibits deadly force against someone who is a danger only to themselves.
The bill builds on previous legislation passed in 2020 following the death of George Floyd that eliminated the “reasonable-officer” standard for the use of deadly force, instead requiring officers to face an “imminent threat” first.
The Colorado Sun reported that Senate Bill 217 raised initially raised the bar for when officers could use deadly force to situations where they face an imminent threat, which overruled the previous standard that allowed officers to use deadly force if they reasonably judged that their lives or the lives of their colleagues were in danger.
Primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Leslie Herod said the definition of last resort is “discretionary,” and requires officers to have sufficient justification for their actions.
“This is trying to obligate law enforcement to use a lot of other measures before it goes to the use of deadly force,” she said.
The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police were “surprised” by the bill, especially after they had just accommodated to Senate Bill 217.
Spokeswoman for the association Amy Faircloth said, “Law enforcement recently completed training on the new use-of-force standards put in place by Senate Bill 217. We were surprised to learn of the use-of-force changes in House Bill 1250. We will comment further once we have had a chance to review the bill.”
Republican Senator and former Weld County sheriff John Cooke opposed the bill, citing the broad language of its “last-resort” clause.
“That’s horrible. That’s so broad. I don’t know how anybody can live by that standard,” he said.
Cooke argued that officers are often forced to make split-second judgments when reacting to potentially deadly situations, and a bill that requires officers to second-guess themselves is unreasonable. He argued further that the bill is a “trap” and “is going to cause a lot of uncertainty.”
House Bill 1250, referred to by Herod as a “clean-up bill,” contains several other provisions, such as ending qualified immunity for Colorado State Patrol troopers (Bill 217 ended it for local law enforcement), revoking funding for agencies that don’t comply or attempt to shield officers from this ruling by refusing to acknowledge that officers acted in bad faith, as well as including specific training for officers who use force and revoking certification from officers who seriously hurt or kill someone.
House Bill 1250 has not been scheduled for a committee hearing yet.