Public Safety Colorado LogoThe 2022 General Assembly session began in January with calls from Governor Polis and Democratic and Republican legislative leaders to make public safety and crime reduction one of the highest priority issues for legislators to address. Although many bills were proposed that touched on public safety and law enforcement issues, overall the General Assembly fell short of making significant gains in providing the tools and resources needed to improve public safety across Colorado. The legislature also continued to focus their efforts heavily on services for criminal offenders while failing to make equal investments in those offenders’ victims. 

The Public Safety Coalition—made up of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, and Colorado Fraternal Order of Police—began the session calling on legislators to engage in a more collaborative, and less political, relationship with law enforcement. Over the past few sessions, the legislature significantly changed how law enforcement interacts with the public and the risks undertaken by officers when carrying out their duties. While law enforcement was able to engage in meaningful ways on bills like House Bill 22-1326, to address the fentanyl crisis, and Senate Bill 22-005, to support officer mental health, the debate on Senate Bill 22-023, concerning juvenile interrogations, provided some lawmakers with an opportunity to continue their negative rhetoric toward law enforcement while trying to further limit our ability to investigate crimes and protect victims.

There were some successful efforts to reduce crime and protect our communities. Senate Bill 22-009 will help law enforcement tackle catalytic converter theft, a crime hitting Colorado hard. While this bill will help reduce property crime, legislators could have done more  to address the deadly impact of fentanyl on our communities. Efforts by law enforcement, district attorneys and many families of fentanyl victims could not overcome the legislature’s ongoing push to decriminalize illicit drug use and take away law enforcement tools needed to investigate and prosecute drug dealers and provide help to those struggling with addiction.

Law enforcement did receive some support from the legislature this session. SB22-005, which will add $3 million this year to the Peace Officer Behavioral Health Support and Community Partnership Grant Program, was an important stride toward addressing the significant issues we face with supporting the well-being of officers and ensuring they can serve their communities effectively. Unfortunately, the allocation was reduced from $5 million to $3 million in the final days of the legislative session despite strong advocacy from law enforcement and legislative sponsors.

To effectively support law enforcement and address the ongoing challenges of recruitment, training and retention, lawmakers must provide more direct sustained funding and fewer unfunded mandates. That was not the case with many pieces of Governor Polis’s “public safety package” and a prime reason why the governor’s proposals did not receive full support from the coalition. Many of those efforts continued the General Assembly’s pattern of using grants and one-time allocations toward critical law enforcement needs.

Final Bill Tracker

The Public Safety Coalition worked together on more than 10 bills during the session, while each organization also had separate positions on other public safety-related legislation. The following is a summary of some bills where the coalition had a shared position and a united voice for law enforcement across Colorado. The bills are broken into five categories that we use to help the governor, legislators and other stakeholders understand how our organizations view the needs of law enforcement agencies to more effectively protect their communities.
 

Supporting recruitment, training and retention of officers

  1. Senate Bill 22-005Coalition Position: Support—This bill will provide an additional $3 million this year to the Peace Officer Behavioral Health Support and Community Partnership Grant Program. The program is currently funded with $2 million annually to provide both direct behavioral health support to peace officers and to assist with costs related to co-responder and other alternative response programs. The new funding will be directed specifically toward officer wellness services, including a new allowable use for departments to hire, contract and develop a remote network to provide behavioral health counseling to officers.These services are critical to maintaining a healthy workforce equipped to recover from the trauma they endure in the course of their duties. 
  2. House Bill 22-1371Coalition Position: Support—This legislation removed the requirement for a police officer to be a bona fide Colorado resident. With this change, police officers will now be able to live in neighboring states and commute to work within Colorado, which may help ease the burdens of the  high cost of living in Colorado and increase retention. 
  3. Senate Bill 22-145Coalition Position: Support with Amendments—This legislation provided three grant programs to address recruitment and retention as well as “crime prevention and crisis intervention” in our communities.  The coalition stood in a “Support with Amendments” position on the measure to assure the language related to the latter grant program appropriately managed expectations around the programs’ ability to “prevent crime” and rather enhance crisis intervention tools.  We were satisfied with the agreed upon amendments to this section of the bill.  The coalition was very supportive of the two grant programs to enhance funding for recruitment and retention of officers, especially in the recruitment of officers that more closely reflect the communities in which they serve.

Helping reduce crime in our communities

  1. House Bill 22-1326Coalition Position: Amend—This bill, sponsored by House Speaker Alec Garnett, represents one of the largest missed opportunities of the 2022 session in protecting our communities from crime. We stood firmly and united in our call for strong, bold measures against the possession of fentanyl. Our coalition members advocated for a stronger bill to address fentanyl—one of the deadliest and most addictive of drugs harming our communities—while consistently supporting the important harm-reduction pieces in the original bill. The final bill contained some important provisions that will increase the tools available to law enforcement to address this crisis. While changes were made in response to our efforts to address Colorado’s current possession laws, the final bill did not go far enough to hold those possessing fentanyl culpable for the severity of this drug. We are hopeful this new law will make a positive impact on fentanyl deaths and interrupt the fentanyl supply chain. While we continue to review the final legislation and prepare to implement this new law, our coalition believes it is important to note the following concerns moving forward. Our first concern is with the new “knowing” standard that was hastily added in the conference committee in the final hours of the session. That provision likely will put the probability of leveling felony charges upon those who possess 1 to 4 grams of fentanyl in question. The amendment creates a new expectation, responsibility and obligation onto law enforcement to investigate cases to establish and prove that someone was not of the “mistaken belief” they had fentanyl. While law enforcement will do its part to investigate and pursue these cases, the charging of felony possession was made purposely difficult, if not unachievable, with the passage of the amendment. In addition, the bill included a mandate for jails to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to inmates, which includes providing drugs like naloxone. The bill only included state funding for MAT for two years, creating an unfunded mandate after this period that will be forced onto county-level taxpayers who fund local jails. We believe it is important for jails to be equipped to provide medical services; however, this will cost money in the future that many jails, especially in rural areas, do not have. We call on lawmakers to address this unfunded mandate as quickly as possible to ensure that this harm-reduction provision in HB1326 is successful.
  2. Senate Bill 22-009Coalition Position: Support—This legislation will now make it unlawful in Colorado to install, sell or advertise any used, recycled, or salvaged catalytic converter unless the catalytic converter is an aftermarket catalytic converter that has been certified for installation and sale by the state. This new law is necessary to severely limit the growing black market for catalytic converters created by Colorado’s highest in the nation rate of catalytic converters thefts.
  3. Senate Bill 22-023Coalition Position: Oppose—This bill, which ultimately failed in the House at the end of session, would have prohibited law enforcement from using “deceptive facts or beliefs” to obtain a statement or admission from a juvenile by making those statements inadmissible unless the prosecution were able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement or admission was made voluntarily. The Public Safety Colorado coalition strongly agrees that law enforcement must always work to protect juveniles and ensure the fairest treatment in the criminal justice system. This bill, however, would have unnecessarily and fully eliminated a law enforcement tool that is critical in certain situations to bring justice to victims and keep additional community members from being victimized. There are many laws and regulations that dictate how juveniles are interviewed, as well as checks and balances through district attorneys and judges. Colorado law requires a parent or guardian to be present when interviewing a juvenile, unless the parent or guardian knowingly waive that right. Law enforcement already cannot coerce confessions and is highly motivated to avoid false confessions. The Public Safety Coalition offered a compromise related to evidence-based model policies on the use of this tactic, but this approach was ultimately rejected by the legislature.

Providing sustainable, renewable funding for LE and reducing unfunded mandates

  • Unfortunately, the Public Safety Coalition was not able to support any legislation that met this requirement. Governor Polis’s public-safety package was based on one-time and grant funds, primarily spending federal dollars. In addition, as noted previously, legislation like HB22-1326 included an unfunded mandate on jails after two years to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to inmates. Past legislation from the General Assembly, including Senate Bill 20-217 and House Bill 21-1250, created numerous unfunded mandates for law enforcement agencies, as well as confusing and duplicative reporting requirements. These requirements now mean that officers are spending fewer hours on the streets responding to calls for service and proactively engaging with their communities, instead doing paperwork and other tasks. The 2022 session had no legislation that helped address this concern, and this coalition will continue to raise awareness to lawmakers about this issue while advocating for sustainable funding and changes to some of these reporting requirements.  

Supporting victims of crime

  1. Senate Bill 22-024Coalition Position: Support—This new law will provide more protections for victims by expanding the behaviors that are considered witness intimidation
  2. Senate Bill 22-095Coalition Position: Support—This law requires the Division of Criminal Justice to annually report to the General Assembly significant data, including trends over time, regarding missing person cases in Colorado. The report must include specific information about missing person cases involving women from minority communities and the older adult population. The legislation also sets new timelines for law enforcement agencies to enter information into state and national databases and communicate with other law enforcement agencies.

Supporting overall public safety and criminal justice efforts

  1. House Bill 22-1142Coalition Position: Oppose—This bill, which died in committee, would have allowed certain liquor licensees to sell alcohol beverages for consumption outside of the currently allowed hours of 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. The coalition was opposed because of concerns that extending alcohol sales in restaurants and bars, particularly in a patchwork way that differs by municipality, could lead to additional incidents of impaired and drunk driving. Additionally, this legislation would have been an unfunded mandate on departments that typically staff down after bars and restaurants close at 2 a.m. Extended hours would have required staff to keep working, straining already limited budgets and staffing capabilities. 
  2. Senate Bill 22-018Coalition Position: Support—This new law will expand Colorado’s court reminder program to automatically enroll every defendant and allow defendants to opt out instead of opting in. The bill will also require the program to use the best contact information available to the courts and provide at least three reminders for court appearances that can be attended virtually. The Public Safety Coalition supports efforts to reduce barriers to effective participation in the criminal justice process. 
  3. Senate Bill 22-055Coalition Position: Support—This new law will allow a person whose driver’s license has been revoked due to DUIs to apply for an early reinstatement by agreeing to an interlock-restricted license and device on their vehicle, helping keep motorists and pedestrians safer.
  4. Senate Bill 22-175Coalition Position: Support—This bill, which failed to get out of the House Appropriations Committee, represents another missed opportunity by the General Assembly to make our communities safer. SB22-175 would have extended the prohibitions and penalties for texting and driving and using a mobile device while driving to drivers 18 and older.
Colorado FOP President Steve Schulz and Immediate Past President Frank Gale today joined Governor Polis and bill sponsors for the signing of Senate Bill 22-005.

Public Safety in the media

News clips and social media posts about the coalition and issues important to law enforcement and public safety across Colorado.

Denver 7: Colorado Gov. Polis signs fentanyl bill aimed at better treatment, increasing criminal penalties

From Denver 7: “[A] coalition of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, and Colorado Fraternal Order of Police said the final version “represents one of the largest missed opportunities of the 2022 session” despite having some portions they liked involving harm reduction.

The consortium said it preferred even stronger possession limits for a felony, questioned the final changes on lowering felonies to misdemeanors, and said those changes made it more difficult for police to send charges to prosecutors.

The group also said it had concerns about two years of medication-assisted treatment funding and how jails could continue to fund those mandates in the future. “We call on lawmakers to address this unfunded mandate as quickly as possible to ensure that this harm-reduction provision in HB1326 is successful,” the group said.

Vail Daily: Colorado to devote funds toward peace officer mental health services

Denver Gazette: Denver to host two-day, law enforcement-focused fentanyl summit

Please be sure to follow the coalition on social media … and then watch for posts on topics important to law enforcement and public safety across Colorado.

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