Bill to protect Colorado law enforcement whistleblowers advances

The legislation faces heavy opposition from law enforcement groups.
Bill to protect Colorado law enforcement whistleblowers advances
Posted at 5:25 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 14:08:14-04

UPDATE | May 3, noon — The Colorado House of Representatives killed the bill to protect whistleblowers police misconduct on the third reading. Sponsors tried to save it by watering it down again and simply requiring that a task force is created to study this issue. Many lawmakers still had concerns about who would sit on that task force.

It failed on a vote of 31-33.


DENVER — Colorado state lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday aimed at protecting whistleblowers who report police misconduct.

House Bill 24-1460, titled "Law Enforcement Misconduct" has been watered down from its original version, but bans retaliation against whistleblowers. The bill still faces heavy opposition from law enforcement groups, who say it will lead to unintended consequences.

A group of former police officers have spent a lot of time at the Colorado State Capitol this week pushing for the bill. They each say they were retaliated against after reporting misconduct by fellow officers.

Bill to protect Colorado law enforcement whistleblowers advances

“We had to do a lot of lobbying and a lot of talking with people and continuing to share our stories,” said McKinzie Rees, a former Edgewater Police Department officer.

“It got to the point where I was made fun of by my male counterparts," added Nicole Urban, a former Colorado Springs police officer. "My male supervisors laughed at me because of my size."

“I was basically bullied into medically retiring earlier than I wanted to,” said Stephanie Silverman, another former Colorado Springs police officer.

2024 police whistleblower bill

Denver7 first spoke with Rees last week.

Rees said she was forced to resign in lieu of termination after reporting her sergeant for sexually assaulting her. Her former sergeant, Nathan Geerdes, was indicted and pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact, official misconduct and forgery.

“I think just speaking up about things — you get a lot of backlash when that happens,” Rees said.

The retaliation these former officers said they experienced is why they’re pushing for the passage of HB24-1460. The bill reads that officers who retaliate can have their P.O.S.T certification suspended or revoked. It also prohibits law enforcement agencies from charging a fee to the public for releasing unedited video of the incident.

“This bill is huge, not only for women, but for men as well,” Silverman said.

Law enforcement groups strongly oppose this bill. They call it “an empty promise” that will have “unintended consequences.”

“HB24-1460 is an empty promise," said Stephen Schulz, president of the Colorado State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police. "Because of the lack of expert involvement from a variety of fields, including administrative, employment, labor, civil, and criminal law, it does not provide the protection its proponents seek."

Law enforcement groups also said the legislation should not be rushed with the legislative session winding down.

“Given adequate time and an opportunity to thoughtfully engage in the process, we are confident that we can get this right," Schulz said. "That is why we offered and commit to a robust interim stakeholder conversation to fully vet and seek these changes we have long fought for. In a way, that upholds our promise to victims and ensures the protections they deserve. This cannot be done in eight days."

The bill’s sponsors said they made several changes to try to address law enforcement’s concerns, including removing a provision that would hold officers criminally liable for failing to investigate a misconduct allegation.

But they said groups that oppose the bill have not offered any ideas.

“If you have an idea, tell us what it is,” said State Rep. Jennifer Bacon, the assistant House majority leader who is sponsoring the bill along with State Rep. Leslie Herod.

After debating the measure for a couple of hours on Thursday, the House advanced the bill on second reading.

“I'm very pleased. I think the sponsors did a really good job today,” Rees said.

The House also approved an amendment that requests the executive committee of the legislative council — which is comprised of the Senate president, House speaker, and the majority and minority leaders of both chambers — to appoint a working group “to continue the important conversation regarding protecting law enforcement whistleblowers.”

The House must still take a third vote on the bill before sending it to the Senate.

It’s unclear if there’s enough time for the legislation to make it through the Senate, with less than a week remaining before lawmakers must adjourn.

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