— Leslie Herod (@leslieherod) June 12, 2020
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.