MESA COUNTY, Colo. – On June 13th, the streamlined “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity” bill – or SB20-217 – passed the Colorado General Assembly, greenlighting a state-wide law enforcement reform that will change everything from body camera usage, to who can sue officers and departments. Although Governor Polis has yet to sign the legislation, it is likely to become law.
Although this bill passed in only 10 days, it went through a number of drafts – important changes that were made with law enforcement input, including that of our very own Sheriff.
With the passing of Senate Bill 217, changes are coming for Colorado peace officers. This fast-tracked piece of legislation, which was introduced and passed within just 10 days, went through a number of changes before it got the final OK; important changes that impact our local law enforcement.
“When the bill came back for our final approval in the Senate,” Senator Ray Scott (R, District 7) said, “There were several things that were really, really bad with the bill.” Scott was one of two senators that voted “nay” on an amended version that came out of the House. “They had about a $1.5 million unfunded mandate to Mesa County. That’s just money they don’t have right now.”
This money would go to body cameras for all deputies, the headlining new mandate for all law enforcement across the state, including Colorado State Patrol officers. Currently, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have a body camera program.
For local departments like MCSO, law enforcement input was critical to creating something that could actually be implemented – and at the same time, not negatively affect the department’s relationship with the public.
“Early versions of the bill, if you look at those as compared to what finally came out of the legislature are completely different in a lot of areas – and a lot of that was due to direct feedback from the law enforcement community,” said Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis, who worked with Sen. Scott and other state leaders on the legislation.
One vital consideration was the focus on community – which is and always has been of prime importance to Mesa County Officers. Nobody wanted this focus on local to be lost in the wording of a new law.
“Law enforcement in Mesa County is, I think, doing a great job…between Matt Lewis and of course our local police chief [Chief Doug Shoemaker],” Sen. Scott said.
“Our job as public safety is to be open, be responsive, and do the things that our community asks of them,” Sheriff Lewis added. “We’re not going to wait, were going to get started on it now. I think waiting would quite frankly be irresponsible, and there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Colorado State Patrol also released a statement on the passing of the bill, saying, “We currently comply with many portions of this new bill, but we look forward to implementing changes such as adding body cameras for our troopers. Serving our communities and saving lives through highly trained and professional troopers will continue to be our goal.”
To read the full bill, and earlier drafts of the legislation, click here.