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Pikes Peak Region law enforcement at odds with ACLU over bill set to limit arrests and bond

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Top law enforcement officers in El Paso County and the Teller County Sheriff are voicing concerns about a Colorado Senate bill that aims to limit misdemeanor arrests and eliminate cash bail for people charged with certain felony crimes.

Senate Bill 273 calls on police and deputies to not arrest people suspected of committing non-violent, misdemeanor crimes.

Supporters of the bill believe it would significantly reduce jail populations and prevent Coloradans from being locked up because they don't have the money to bail out.

“We don’t need low-level offenders at all occasions to be arrested. That’s not to meant that they get away scot-free," ACLU of Colorado public policy director Denise Maes said. “And we certainly shouldn’t hold people in jail, who are presumptively innocent, simply because they can’t afford to pay the money, the toll so to speak, to get out.”

Five of the top law enforcement officers in El Paso County, including Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski, say victims will be left on the sidelines.

"The biggest thing we have an objection to is this really benefits the suspect, the criminal, and really takes out of consideration any of the concerns of the victim. When we're unable to incarcerate someone who is a repeat offender, who is a continuous offender, it takes away the punishment piece," Niski said.

In a sit-down interview with 13 Investigates, the Colorado Springs Chief said the bill would limit law enforcement working to reduce crime.

"This bill would take away any discretion we have to incarcerate people on certain misdemeanor crimes. Some of those crimes could be an arson crime that's a misdemeanor, a theft crime that's a misdemeanor, a motor vehicle theft crime that's a misdemeanor. And I think what people don't realize is on those misdemeanor crimes that this bill covers, is we would have to issue a summons," Niski explained.

However, the ACLU of Colorado said this bill would prevent situations like the violent arrest of 73-year-old Karen Garner by Loveland police officers. The elderly woman with dementia was arrested last June for stealing $13.88 worth of items from Walmart, according to a lawsuit filed last month by her family. Two officers were charged in connection with the arrest this May.

“We don’t situations like what we saw recently with a woman in Loveland who was accused of taking $13 worth of goods from the Walmart. She was arrested in an aggressive sort of way. She could have just been cited," Maes said.

If made law, SB 273 would allow people arrested for class 4, 5, and 6 felonies to get out of paying a cash bond unless a judge deems them a flight or safety risk. Niski believes that would make it easier for accused criminals to skip out on their court dates.

"Two failures to appear before we can actually incarcerate somebody in the jail," Niski said. "If they fail the third time then we can actually take them to jail, incarcerate them, and ensure they go to court."

The House Judiciary Committee is currently debating the bill. Check back for updates.

Investigations / Local News / Video

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

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Lauren Barnas

Lauren is an anchor and MMJ for KRDO and 13 Investigates. Learn more about Lauren here.

Comments

27 Comments

    1. Well, since people elected a governor who is FROM California, should anyone be surprised he and the legislature are trying hard to make this state look like CA?

  1. This is the same California law that is ruining businesses because shoplifters have a free access to pick what they can walk out of the store with without the possibility of arrest, let alone jailing. How is this considered victimless? All the other customers who pay for their goods carry the cost and the business owner pays the cost every time something walks out the door unpaid for. Are we going to allow Colorado to turn into another San Francisco? We already have the crazy homeless population and now this?

  2. violent arrest of 73-year-old Karen Garner by Loveland police officers….

    That could have been prevented not by this law but by hiring competent people and providing them proper training in confrontation avoidance and mental health. They should have called the BHCON unit and not started a wrestling contest.

    1. Better training? LOL… law enforcement agencies are now struggling to find ammo they can buy for training. And the additional fee you pay for police training when you register your car? Polis is stealing it. Those funds going to law enforcement from the State have been slashed by 85%. Law enforcement agencies all over Colorado can’t find enough decent candidates to fill the ranks any more. The smart ones out there don’t want the job any more. And those that are still applying… well… most really shouldn’t be in the profession. Thanks libs…

  3. Well it’s not like CSPD and other local law enforcement agencies respond to non-emergent calls for service in a timely manner to catch the suspect anyways. And CSPD and other local law enforcement agencies have not been responding to non-emergent calls for service in a timely manner for more than 10 years now.
    This bill simply does what CSPD and other local law enforcement agencies were already doing, only now it will be legal. The only difference is we the taxpayers don’t have to continue to pay through or taxes the bill for the County’s inmate housing, and that is a positive that Republican, Democrat or Independent can agree on. The local LEO’s sole complaint is the loss of revenue, always has been, always will be. End the For-Profit Jail and Prison system(s) and start an actual rehabilitation program to reduce recidivism for the betterment of our great nation.

    1. “Senate Bill 273 calls on police and deputies to not arrest people suspected of committing non-violent, misdemeanor crimes.”
      “Five of the top law enforcement officers in El Paso County, including Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski, say victims will be left on the sidelines.”
      Ok, you five top law enforcement officers in El Paso County, answer me these questions.
      1. What is the purpose of the VRA Victim’s Rights Act?
      2. Why is there only specific crimes against a person listed and not crimes against property in the VRA?
      https://dcj.colorado.gov/dcj-offices/victims-programs/crime-victim-rights-act-vra
      Look under the “What are my rights as a crime victim?” section and click the link labelled “Crimes that fall under the Victim Rights Act” for this specific list of qualified crimes that fall under the VRA.
      Why does it sound like the five top law enforcement officers in El Paso County either don’t know this law or are attempting to drum up disinformation about this house bill and speak out of the corner of their mouths using blatant fallacies just to keep the for profit prison system alive?

      1. I have two problems with this bill:
        1. It doesn’t address repeat offenders, which comprise probably the biggest class of real criminals in our country. And
        2. It includes those accused of felony crimes which, by definition, are the worst crimes on the books.
        The bill just goes too far by excluding both of those classes of suspects.

        1. “1. It doesn’t address repeat offenders, which comprise probably the biggest class of real criminals in our country. ”
          1a. That’s because there is a specific statute that has been already written into law to deal with this. Criminal Code § 18-1.3-801. Punishment for habitual criminals and Vehicles and Traffic § 42-2-206. Driving after revocation prohibited.
          “2. It includes those accused of felony crimes which, by definition, are the worst crimes on the books.”
          2a. Please specifically list which “non-violent felony crimes” you are concerned about that are not directly covered by the VRA, but would allow them the ability to be exempt under this proposed bill.

  4. Every radical Marxist Democrat who supports this bill deserves to be thrown into the proverbial nut house, they are on a mission to destroy America.

          1. Wrong-igan Torigan, always with the bubble-headed low IQ Hit and run response. Stuff it.

        1. You really are full of it, if you still believe there was any significant fraud in the last elections. I can’t believe how many so-called Republicans are still being take in by the biggest con-man of all time, Donald Trump. I used to think Republicans were intelligent, but I’ve been proved wrong on that generality.

          1. I’m waiting to see what the audits produce before making a judgment either way.

  5. Not to jail people who are presumed innocent. Umm everyone who is arrested is innocent until proven guilty. So then everyone charged with a crime should not be jailed????? This is a dangerous slope we are headed down. Sad when criminals get more rights then victims. Sad when the new “Hero’s” are criminals and police are vilified.
    You are basically saying it is ok to commit crime(s) because it is not your fault you are doing what you are doing, you are a victim of society and so criminal activity should be acceptable and you shouldn’t be held accountable.
    Just think f what crime whould do if punishment were very harsh. Many would think more than twice before committing a crime.

  6. Why do most people observe the speed limit? Because there are consequences if they get caught. Now, take away that consequence and it is mayhem. The same thing will happen if you take away the consequences for misdemeanor’s.

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