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Support growing in Colorado for reform in use of force by law enforcement

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The voices of protesters in Colorado are being heard by the same people they have often criticized for lack of action in cases of excessive force used by law enforcement officers.

On Thursday, as demonstrations continued for a sixth day, the state's 22 district attorneys released a letter calling for stronger action in light of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being subdued by officers in Minneapolis last week.

Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, released the following statement Thursday:

“CDAC and prosecutors across Colorado are united in the call for justice for George Floyd and support meaningful change within our criminal justice system. District attorneys in this state believe that there is
an immediate need and real opportunity for us all to agree on several significant reforms that directly relate to the issues brought to light by that horrific event. District attorneys and many in the law enforcement community believe any peace officer who is convicted of inappropriate use of force should be terminated and support the elimination of the fleeing
felon rule, banning the use of chokeholds by peace officers, increasing the use of body cams and creating a statewide tracking system within the Attorney General’s office of officers who are untruthful, decertified or terminated. We also encourage creating a duty for officers to intervene when another officer is violating the law."

The latter sentence refers to a proposed "duty to intervene" law being considered by the Legislature and spearheaded by Senate President Leroy Garcia. The proposal would subject peace officers to criminal charges if they don't step in to stop a comrade using excessive force on a suspect.

Late Thursday night, it was announced that the proposal advanced through its first committee hearing.

On Wednesday, the County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police threw their support behind the proposal.

Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper announced the move in a release.

"I was an arrest control instructor for 20 years, prior to getting involved in law enforcement -- and what I saw on the video footage, I've never seen that type of restraint used or advocated or taught in any discipline," he said. "I wouldn't do it, and I wouldn't let any of my deputies do it."

Cooper said he feels strongly that law enforcement should rely more on conflict resolution to diffuse tense situations and be properly trained in techniques to subdue a suspect.

"I think one of our failings is we don't listen enough and let someone vent," he said. "In many instances, we shouldn't treat someone as a suspect. We should treat them as a family member who's having a bad day."

Cooper, who's in his second year as sheriff, said he has changed his office's use of force policy.

"I believe strongly in it because I know not everyone in my office received the same training that I did," he said. "But everyone here knows what's expected of them. I need someone who can deal with a wide variety of socioeconomic situations and a wide variety of ethnicities, because we have that here."

Next week, Fremont County deputies will receive more conflict resolution testing.

Article Topic Follows: News

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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