Colorado must release police body camera footage within 21 days of request

Colorado has a new law meant to promote police accountability by mandating prompt release of body camera footage, among other steps.

Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday signed HB21-1250, which requires police to release requested body camera footage that’s unredacted (with few exceptions) within 21 days in cases where someone has complained of officer misconduct. The rule goes into effect immediately and will give families of people who were injured or killed by police greater access to information about the cases.

It follows a 2020 law that forces all departments to be outfitted with body cameras by July 1, 2023, but bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver said the state shouldn’t wait until then to increase transparency rules.

“There are some things that need to be immediately in place,” Herod said. “These are basic values, basic things that should be easy to put in place immediately. … There have been instances where families did not get access to body camera footage for months.”

The law also strips the qualified immunity defense from Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Bureau of Investigation officials, who were exempted from a 2020 law on policing. Municipalities cannot preemptively declare they will never find officers in bad faith — a direct response to Greenwood Village’s attempt to do that.

HB21-1250 was one in a slew of bills concerning police and the legal system that Polis was set to sign into law Tuesday. Others include:

  • SB21-271, which rewrites the state’s misdemeanor laws to reclassify certain crimes and generally make criminal penalty less harsh for this class of offense;
  • HB21-1214, which promises to automatically seal arrest records in many cases;
  • HB21-1280, which requires bond hearings for jail defendants within 48 hours of arrest; and
  • SB21-138, which requires a pilot program to study brain injuries among those imprisoned in Colorado as part of a possible long-term project

These and other related bills are designed to make criminal punishment less severe. That goal extends to the Department of Corrections, agency Director Dean Williams said.

“We all win when prisons are humane and less traumatic,” he said.

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