Police Improvement Measures Earn Badge of Approval

Law enforcement oversight was a hot topic at the state legislature this year given the spotlight national events have shown on policing practices and policies.

But only the most sensible, cost-effective policing improvement measures made the final cut, by getting a signature from Gov. Hickenlooper Wednesday, thanks to the level-headed leadership of Senators John Cooke (R-Greeley) and Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

While Republicans certainly see areas where law enforcement improvements are needed, they declined to support a number of measures, introduced in the Democrat-controlled House, which seemed like overreactions to problems existing elsewhere. Cooke and Roberts focused on common sense, cost-effective changes that addressed conditions in Colorado. The bipartisan bills they sponsored-- SB217, SB218 and SB219improve the collection and reporting of data on officer-involved shootings, facilitate information-sharing between departments about problem officers and encourage independent investigations through the use of multi-agency “shoot teams”.

A House bill also signed Wednesday, of which Cooke was a sponsor, establishes a grant program to help fund body camera purchases for local police departments. “I’ve always been very supportive of body cameras because I think it exonerates law enforcement more so than it indicts them,” said Cooke, the former sheriff of Weld County. “The thing most people are going to see through the use of these body cameras, 99 percent of the time officers are doing the right thing.”

I think we all can agree that one of the things recent national events brought to the surface is the need to restore public confidence in law enforcement, by improved transparency, accountability and technology, which is what we focused on with these bills,” added Roberts. “We know that 99 percent of our law officers operate with great professionalism and integrity, but we also have a responsibility to do what we can to address the occasional performance problems that come to light.

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