Chokehold ban among Colo. police bills nearing approval

Similar bills failed last year amid opposition from police groups


Associated Press

DENVER — New limits on police authority are nearing approval in the Colorado legislature after what appears to be an elusive exercise in politics — compromise.

A bill to limit police use of chokeholds and an expanded ban on racial profiling are among the bills that won bipartisan approval Monday in a Colorado Senate committee. Similar bills failed last year amid opposition from police groups and Republicans.

A series of compromises appear to have made the difference.

For example, the chokehold ban now would ban only chokeholds that cut off air flow, not chokeholds that cut off blood flow. Police say that's an important distinction.

"It's a much better bill this year," said Sen. John Cooke, a Republican and former Weld County sheriff who opposed the chokehold ban last year but supports this year's version.

He said the chokehold ban has been amended to the point that "the only one that would do it is a bad cop."

The Democratic sponsor of the chokehold ban, Sen. Michael Johnston of Denver, said the bill still addresses public concerns about chokeholds.

"This is in response to some of the tragedies that have happened because of overuse of the chokehold," Johnston said. "It puts some guardrails around when this can be used."

Compromise also saved an expansion of the ban on racial profiling to include sexual identity and other aspects.

The profiling bill was amended to say that police can't use characteristics such as race, disability, religion or age as the sole reason to stop someone. That means that police could still use those characteristics if they're used among other factors; for example, to look for a white male fleeing a gas station that just got robbed.

Another bill requires authorities to expunge criminal records when people are victims of identity theft. A fourth one makes it easier for police departments to spot warning signs on an applicant's resume by requiring an officer's former employers to share more details about past behavior.

All four measures have already passed the House and await action by the full Senate.

A fifth bill related to police conduct has murkier prospects, though.

The Democratic House has yet to debate a measure seemingly inspired by crime documentaries such as Netflix's "Making a Murderer." That bill would require police agencies to videotape interrogations of suspects in certain felony cases as a way to prevent false confessions.

That bill was approved 11-0 last month in the House Judiciary Committee, but it faces one more hurdle before going to the House floor for debate.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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