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Police body-camera bill fails in Senate

‘I was stunned,’ says Republican sponsor

DENVER – A Colorado Senate panel rejected a bill Friday calling for expanded use of body cameras by police officers, despite its bipartisan support and backing of law enforcement.

“I was stunned,” said Republican Sen. John Cooke, a former sheriff who was sponsoring the bill.

The proposal was one of about a dozen that lawmakers have considered this year in response to allegations of police misconduct around the nation. Many of the measures have failed, but the camera proposal was widely expected to pass.

Its rejection – along with a bill that would have updated the state police training curriculum – left lawmakers in danger of having little to show for what was an ambitious plan to curb law enforcement power and increase oversight.

The camera measure previously cleared the House and would have encouraged departments to acquire the technology by creating a grant program.

Sen. Kent Lambert, a Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which rejected the camera and training bills, said there was concern that a lot of police departments already have money for the cameras.

“So I’m not so sure that that needs to be a grant program from the state,” he said.

Cooke was also carrying the training bill, which sought to add civilians to the state training board for peace officers to give the public more influence over how agencies operate. It would have required classes for law-enforcement officers on subjects such as improving community relations with police and de-escalation tactics.

Cooke said he’s considering having both bills reconsidered before the legislative session ends Wednesday.

Law-enforcement agencies supported the grant program for the cameras, saying it would help smaller, rural departments afford the devices.

Regarding the training bill, Lambert said there was a lack of information about its purpose. The measure needed $350,000 to add a couple of staff members to the Department of Law.

“Part of the question was, what is the training for?” Lambert said.

Lawmakers have also rejected legislation that would have forbid officers from using chokeholds unless it was for self-defense. Another failed measure would have made it easier for residents to petition to have special prosecutors appointed to investigate cases of excessive or deadly force when no charges were filed.

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