State Rep. Leslie Herod speaks nationally on Colorado’s police reforms

October 20, 2020

State Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver led a national conversation on what states can accomplish in criminal justice reform Tuesday morning.

State Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver led a national conversation on what states can accomplish in criminal justice reform Tuesday morning.

She is the co-chair of the new Millennial Action Project Criminal Justice Reform Advisory Council along with Republican state Rep. Tanner Magee, a Republican from Louisiana, a national collaborative to help younger lawmakers across the country reach consensus on thorny matters facing the country.

“Criminal justice reform is the issue of the moment,” Herod told Colorado Politics after speaking to reporters nationally about Colorado’s gains. “As we go back into our legislative sessions, people are going to wonder and ask their legislators what they’re doing to address this issue. Make no mistake, that is going to be the topic of the 2021 legislative session across every state.”

She nodded to a nation at a crossroads in the balance of justice, equal protection and police accountability, as President Trump has made “law and order” central to his reelection campaign. The Millennial Action Project said its more than 1,500 legislators will receive the advisory council’s recommendations and findings. Herod said working with others who have an eye toward the future across state lines and party affiliations has never been more important to come up with solutions that lead to lasting change and peace in the streets.

“People are demanding it,” said Herod, who also chairs Colorado’s Black Democratic Legislative Caucus.

There’s still plenty of work to be done: bail reform, prison depopulation, sentencing guidelines and adjustments in budgeting that accompany those changes.

This year, Herod sponsored and drove through a package of reforms to police accountability and use of force in Colorado, including new requirements on body cameras, use of force, fired cops, protections for peaceful protesters, data collection and holding persistently problematic police departments accountable.  The law also would allow for officers to be sued individually in some cases.

Senate Bill 217 passed the state House 52-13 and the Senate 32-2 with bipartisan support.

The bill was also sponsored by Democrats. Herod was joined by Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez of Denver.

The bipartisan vote in Colorado was referenced on the floor the U.S. Senate in June by Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver to make the case for the Democrats’ police reform bill in Congress.

“Last week in Colorado — my state, a Western state, a purple state — we became the first state in America to pass a sweeping police accountability bill into law,” Bennet said then.

“It’s almost exactly like the one we have proposed here,” Bennet said.

The Denver Post reported in August that 241 officers in Colorado had resigned in the weeks after the governor signed the law. Though the resignations were higher than routine turnover, but the paper could not connect the exodus to the newer, tougher accountability standards. 

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Rep. Sara Jacobs


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