Landmark Police Accountability Bill Passes House 52-13

Rest in power, George Floyd.

That’s the word from the Colorado House today as the extended 2020 legislative session winds down–Senate Bill 217, landmark legislation to ban chokeholds and end qualified immunity for police officers who brutalize the public, has passed by a lopsided–but not unanimous–52-13 vote. Among the “yes” votes, we note with some surprise, is GOP Minority Leader Patrick Neville, though a majority of his caucus in the end could not be persuaded to replicate the near-total support for the bill shown by the Senate. And as Michael Karlik of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, second-reading debate yesterday in the House turned quite nasty before the end:

Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, told [Rep. Rod] Bockenfeld that Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader emailed the county’s legislative delegation to thank them for amending SB217 in consultation with law enforcement.

“That’s because you blackmailed him,” Bockenfeld said, according to Tipper.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, glared silently at Bockenfeld when it was her turn to speak. “There’s no blackmail that happened in the lobby. This is a good bill,” she said. “And shame on you for implying that in the well.”

Rep. Larry Liston, another Republican “no” vote, went directly for the third rail:

“I’m not justifying anything that that officer or the other three did at all. I want to be very clear about that. But [Pols emphasis] George Floyd was no angel either. In and out of prison.” Liston added, “irrespective of that, he didn’t deserve any of that.”

So why mention it at all? Liston doesn’t have to tell you. You already know.

But in the end, despite the determination of a majority of the GOP House minority to sound a discordant note into the history books, the story of Senate Bill 217, and the historic reforms this bill makes to the power of police to use force with impunity against the public, will be a story of landmark success that transcends partisan politics. Rep. Rod Bockenfeld claims that police were “blackmailed” into supporting the legislation, but the reality is that cops and even a large number of Republicans understood this time, along with the Democratic proponents who drove this bill from impetus to passage in less than two weeks, that a major change had to come.

Colorado rose to meet a massive challenge that was done waiting.

It’s a rare enough event that it feels weird. But it’s why everyone with a heart gets into this business.

24 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. unnamed says:

    Interesting thing.  Janice Rich and Richard Champion voted against the bill in committee, but voted for it on the floor.

  2. Genghis says:

    But …

    "But" = "Forget what I just said; now you get to hear what I really think."

    George Floyd was no angel either. In and out of prison.

    In other words, let's just file Floyd's murder in the Did Society a Favor drawer and call it good.

    Go fuck your mother, Liston. Here's hoping you die slowly and in intractable pain. The world will be a measurably better place when you're gone.

  3. kwtree says:

    I’m with you on Liston. He should eat shit and die, then wash his brain out with Clorox,  with his “blame the victim and justify the crime” crap.

    But let’s leave Liston’s (probably blameless) mother out of it.

    Some other time, I’ll explain all the reasons why conflating an expression of violent disgust and rage with a usually consensual, usually enjoyable act most women commonly participate in is cringe-worthy. 

    • kickshot says:

      Liston is just another entitled white punk who’s never been called out for his brazen exercise of privilege.

      How many people, who have achieved some semblance of power, would have been stopped far short of the point where they could fearlessly flaunt their get-out-of-jail-free cards; who, no doubt, would have been diverted into a colorblind, incorruptible justice system if they had had to live through the same level of disproportionate surveillance as people of a different color than them?

      Liston has had a far easier walk through life than George Floyd and so many others. I have too.

      Liston, if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Just STFU.

  4. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Does the bill provide an exemption, on the wearing of body cams, to cops working undercover?

    • Genghis says:

      Indeed it does:


      C.R.S. § 24-31-902(1)(a)(II)(C).

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        OK. Hadn't had time to read the bill.

        Glad you guys have calmed down. Larry Liston has problems, but I don't think it's necessary to use Westboro Baptist Church-style language to call him out.

        • Duke Cox says:

          George Floyd was no angel either. In and out of prison.” Liston added, “irrespective of that, he didn’t deserve any of that."

          Sorry, but I missed the 

          Westboro Baptist Church-style language

          of which you speak. Could you be more specific? Was it Genghis? kwt? I'm just confused…I must not remember the truly vile language of Fred Phelps accurately. Memory tells me they, his family, were considered a hate group by the SPLC.

          Quite a comparison.


          • Genghis says:

            Pretty sure it was me. It's all good, as CHB and kwtree have every right to express disapproval of my comments, just as I am free to give zero god-diddly-damns about what anyone else thinks of how I express disapproval of toilet bugs such as Liston.

          • Diogenesdemar says:

            What Liston’s unintended, or perhaps overt, racism is willfully blind to is that these protests are not solely, or even primarily, about only George Floyd.

            They are about the fact that we live in a country where a non-white’s life, their entire life and being, from the moment of birth to the moment of death, by whatever means, are not valued as human lives.  Ever.  They are about lives so undervalued that they can be openly and brazenly taken away, snuffed out, at any time, or any whim, in a show of petulance and superiority with the expected approval and complicity of our law enforcers; with impunity, without any fear or any hesitation. And, that’s their lives, it doesn’t even begin to cover their property, money, homes, health, jobs, educational opportunities, or any basic freedoms which can, and have been, also openly taken, damaged, denied, withheld, locked out, stolen, sold away, tied up, trampled, shackled, beaten down, stomped on, choked, ignored, overlooked, raped, locked up, lynched, shot, set aflame, drowned, pissed on, destroyed, snuffed out, murdered . . . 

            Yes, it was George Floyd’s life — but everyone, every single one of us, knows it could have just as easily been any other, and theirs also, too.  George Floyd’s murder was the spark . . .

            That’s the point, Larry.  You and yours are the problem; have chosen, in fact, to be and to continue the problem. And, if you don’t believe that, there’s a video you should take 8:46 and watch. Wake the fuck up, or shut the fuck up.

            Now, let’s talk about a law enforcement accountability law for our elected officials . . .

            • MichaelBowman says:

              This is a good read: 

              I was a police chief stopped by my own officer. After Floyd, we need change at all levels.

              In 1957, I was a freshman at Cass Technical High School. As I walked home after speaking with my favorite teacher, four white police officers jumped out of their cruiser, threw me against it and beat me severely. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Officers in the feared “Big Four” were well-known in the black community for brutally maintaining their kind of “Law and Order.” The more I screamed, the more they beat me. Time seemed to stand still as I saw the anger on their faces and the horror on the faces of black people who gathered around us, yelling for the police to stop. 

              • Duke Cox says:

                Excellent article. Thanks.

                Another issue no one seems to be discussing is the fairly recent development of police departments being outgunned by malign citizens, and therefore needing immense firepower and overwhelming force just to have a chance to survive.

                We need to remove military hardware from the possession of unlicensed citizens. It should be next to impossible to own an AR-15. We have to start somewhere, and figuring out a way to help cops feel less threatened would help a lot. so would relieving the desperation in our minority communities. That starts with economic equity.

                …round and round.


                • MichaelBowman says:

                  Here's another good one, Duke: 

                  John Bogle, the accidental socialist

                  "The implications quickly get radical. If the critique of common shareholders is correct, it doesn't just mean American capitalism is quietly being taken over by incipient central planners. It means those central planners only answer to one group of Americans — namely, the top 10 percent, who own 70 percent of all U.S. wealth. Which is basically the worst of all possible worlds. "If we are already trusting corporate managers to be faithful agents of the rentier class as a whole," wrote economist J.W. Mason in Jacobin, "why not take the next step and make them agents of society in general?" I.e. If this is our reality already, why not just socialize finance outright?

                  Conversely, if you want to preserve capitalist competition, but avoid central-planning-by-mutual-fund, a cleaner solution might just be to get rid of shareholders entirely.

                  As it happens, Bogle's own company, Vanguard, has no shareholders; it's a form of co-operative, where the company is instead owned by its customers or its workers. (In Vanguard's case, it's owned by its investor-customers.) Bogle decided that managing customers' portfolios through a corporate structure that answered to a separate group of profit-driven shareholders caused an inherent conflict of interest.

                  Co-operatives aren't that common, but maybe they should be. Reinvigorating unions or mandating worker representation on corporate boards are other ways to marginalize the influence shareholders have over corporate governance.

                  Ironically, such efforts often get derided as socialism. But if you follow the logic, they may actually be the most pro-capitalism thing in the world. (my emphasis)"

                • MichaelBowman says:

                  ….and another:  capitalism in crisis

                  Only 25% of Americans think capitalism is good for society

                  For many this doesn't come as a surprise. Prominent voices ranging from a top Harvard economist to the billionaire hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio have warned that capitalism would soon face a crisis because of the massive inequality exposed by the pandemic.

    • spaceman65 says:

      Nothing like a whole bunch of judicial activism to create a get out of jail and avoid civil liability card.  A few bad apples?  Hell, modern American policing is rotten to the core. 

    • Genghis says:

      And STILL we're hearing that the solution is throwing more money at police departments.

      • Duke Cox says:

        I hate to bring the law of supply and demand into this discussion, but…

        Any comprehensive discussion of police reform needs to start at the private prison level. When we accepted the combination of incarceration and profit, on a corporate level, we changed the dynamic. An incarcerated person became a corporate asset and profit center for private corporations and government jurisdictions alike.

        We have created a demand for IPs and they have become a commodity, with jails and prisoners across the country. Prisoners are shuttled back and forth and money changes hands.

        Another fly in the ointment of reform is the now widely accepted practice of property seizure, particularly as it relates to drug policing. The Big Pharma, Big Prison, Big Police cartel has fought desperately for years to keep Cannabis illegal, to perpetuate minority poverty and crime, and to make sure their cells are always full. The most important thing is to deliver a nice profit to the shareholders…or allow the sheriff to use that sweet bass boat he confiscated from a local “drug dealer”.

        The old Clintonesque notion that EVERYTHING should be run like a business, is as full of shit today as it was then. There are aspects of society that should be paid for by citizens for the public good. The crime is when the fire of the economy is snuffed out by the wealthy, by overburdening the workers with tax…just so they, the Jamie Dimons of the world, can buy a bigger yacht.

        As I mentioned earlier, somewhere, Dr. King and Malcolm X, though different in approach, both understood that the economy is the method by which institutional and cultural racism is sustained. Without economic reform, there can be no peace.

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