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State and local leaders acknowledge police reform is work in progress

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 10:49:53-04

DENVER — Colorado state and local leaders acknowledge more work needs to be done to ensure racial equity in policing after a jury found former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder in George Floyd's death.

Last May, George Floyd pleaded for his life as Chauvin knelt on his neck. Floyd gasped for air for more than nine minutes as bystanders recorded the encounter. The video went viral and sparked a movement across the nation and protests across Denver and Aurora.

Demonstrators chanted Floyd’s name and demanded change. In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 217, a police reform and accountability bill. The bill bans chokeholds, requires body cameras, eliminates qualified immunity for officers and more. State leaders called SB 217 history in the making.

Denise Maes, a public policy director for ACLU of Colorado, says the fight for reform isn’t over.

“I hope that folks don’t see this as an opportunity to be complacent or to assume things are now done,” Maes said. “One of the areas that we need to spend a lot more time on is asking the question of why law enforcement is involved in enforcing civil traffic infractions.”

She says police departments also need to better address who responds to situations where an individual requires mental health help.

George Brauchler, the former district attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial District, hopes the verdict restores trust back in police and ends a movement to defund law enforcement. He wants this verdict to also resonate with law enforcement.

“You don’t have to suffer through the bad apples. The system can be there to help hold those folks accountable, and that should be liberating for them," Brauchler said. "I also hope it emboldens the community to move forward and feel like we can trust the system.”

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen released the following statement after the verdict was announced:

“I respect the judicial process and hope this verdict allows our community and nation to begin to heal. Since the horrific killing of George Floyd, the Denver Police Department has listened and learned from our community and continues working to build relationships where we demonstrate how we value those we serve. We remain committed to finding the best ways to ensure policing in Denver is safe and equitable for all. I believe we have made meaningful progress in the nearly 11 months since his death, but there is more work to be done. Working together as a community is essential to reaching those goals.”

The Boulder interim city manager and police chief released a joint statement welcoming community input to ensure communities of color have a voice.

“We have a robust strategic police reform action plan, including placing the sanctity of human life at the center of every police-community member encounter. We’re also launching an engagement process to create a new Master Plan that will help define the future role of policing in Boulder,” the statement says.

RELATED: 'We felt the weight of our ancestors': Colorado Black Caucus, others react to Chauvin conviction

House Bill 1250 is also under consideration. It’s a law enforcement accountability bill that aims to clarify and address issues in Senate Bill 217, which was passed last year.