Colorado bill would define prone restraint as excessive force if used inappropriately

HB24-1372 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Bill that defines prone restraint as use of force advances out of House Judiciary Committee
Posted at 10:15 PM, Apr 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 09:29:00-04

DENVER — On Tuesday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee was filled with law enforcement — from the smallest of Colorado communities, to the largest cities — sitting alongside people who know what it's like to be arrested.

All of the people in attendance were there for the first hurdle facing House Bill 24-1372, a bill that aims to define prone restraint as use of force. Proponents said it would increase the accountability of law enforcement in Colorado, while opponents believe there is still a lot of work to be done on the bill.

The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-3 vote.

Prone restraint is a physical restraint where an individual is placed facedown.

police prone position

State Representative Leslie Herod, D-Denver, is one of the prime sponsors of HB24-1372. She said prone restraint would be considered excessive force when used inappropriately.

“We have introduced a bill that clarifies when prone restraint can be used, and most importantly, when someone must be put in a recovery position, allowing them to breathe and save lives," Herod said. “This bill clearly defines prone restraint as a use of force, putting it into the accountability section.”

Herod said law enforcement could still use the prone restraint tactic if this bill became law — but only in certain circumstances — thanks to a significant amendment made to the original form of the bill.

Colorado bill would define prone restraint as excessive force if used inappropriately

“Law enforcement does need to use prone restraint to secure a scene for instance. If they are needing to secure a scene or there's multiple people on scene who need to be secured, they will often do prone commands, telling someone to get down on the ground and put their hands behind their back. That's fine. That is still permissible in this bill," Herod explained. “They may even have to use mechanical restraints to put someone in prone. That is also allowable in this bill, but what's not allowable is to keep someone in that position for too long, facedown, where they cannot breathe. And that can cause the harm.”

One of the supporters of the bill is Shataeah Kelly. Kelly was arrested by Aurora police officers in 2019.

“I called the police for help, and instead they came in and arrested me," Kelly said.


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Body-camera video from the arrest shows Kelly being forcefully tied with her hands and legs behind her back. She was put into the backseat of a police cruiser on her stomach. The video shows her in that position for more than 20 minutes. At one point, she slips off the backseat, and her face is pressed against the floor of the car.

“I had no idea where he was taking me. I had no idea where I was going. I couldn't see anything and I was screaming for help," Kelly recalled. “I couldn't get out of a situation. I wasn't being heard, and I felt like I was left for dead.”

The officer involved in the arrest — former Aurora Police Officer Levi Huffine — was fired in 2020 for "severe misconduct."

Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez walked into the committee hearing opposed to the bill.

“The original bill really concerned us in the profession," Vasquez said. “The requirement of the original bill was that the only time you would be allowed to do that is if deadly force was authorized, which meant that you were under the most extreme situations. But really, it's a tactic that law enforcement uses all the time to safely put people into custody who are being violent, or who may have a weapon on them.”

Vasquez said the amendment helped alleviate some concerns about the bill — but not all of them. He still worries it will be burdensome on organizations across the state, and could hurt hiring and retention.

Another concern, echoed by many in the committee, is that the bill falls under Title 18 — criminal code.

“If it lands in Title 18, it's going to require that there's use of force reporting when we were involved in a compliant arrest," Vasquez explained. "If it falls under Title 18, from a recruiting and retention perspective, it's going to place this onus or this feeling on officers that they're now even more scrutinized, and I think it could impact recruiting and retention greatly... We still have the criminal avenue for an officer that really acted egregiously, didn't follow a policy, didn't follow training, hurt somebody — those kinds of actions can still be charged criminally.”

While Herod said she is willing to work with opponents on the Title 18 classification, she does not plan on completely removing it from the bill.

HB24-1372 heads to the Appropriations Committee next.

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