The standards of conduct for peace officers in Colorado may soon become stricter. A bill in the Colorado Senate, SB01-016, proposes to expand the category of criminal offenses for which a peace officer could lose certification. The bill, sponsored Sen. Peggy Reeves, D-14th District, has passed through the Judicial Committee, and is presently in Appropriations. The House sponsor is Rep. Mark Larsen, R-Cortez.
"The primary thrust of the legislation is that it expands the category of criminal offenses for which the POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) Board must deny or revoke Peace Officer Certification," said Ken Lane, Deputy Attorney General. "Presently, there are only a certain number of felonies that would cause an officer to lose certification, which is the first step for removing an officer from a certain department."
Lane said that in Colorado, anyone who wishes to be a peace officer anywhere in the state must be certified by the POST Board. If that certification is denied or revoked, the individual can no longer be a peace officer of any sort in Colorado. The board, by statute, is housed within the Attorney General's office. Attorney General Ken Salazar chairs the board, with the remaining 16 seats filled by law enforcement representatives appointed by the Governor. At the end of a three-year term, a representative can either leave the board or be re-appointed. There are no term limits.
"We've done a lot of work on [this bill]. The idea originated in the POST Board itself; they raised the issue and formed a sub-committee. A study was done, which lead to recommendations the board made to the Attorney General's Office. Those recommendations became the basis for the bill that is now in the Legislature," Lane said.
There has been some opposition. The Fraternal Order of Police has expressed concern that this new bill would remove local control over personnel. This point is basically moot, according to Lane, because "all officers need to meet the certification standards of the state, so local control isn't really an issue."
"We respect their view, but the Chief of Police and the Sheriff Department support the legislation," said Lane. The attorney general's office feels confident the bill will become law, and deservedly so.
The bill would add 32 criminal offenses to the existing list of offenses that trigger decertification. These include: False reporting to authorities, abuse of public records, soliciting unlawful compensation, official oppression, harassment-stalking, and unlawful use of a controlled substance.
"Like all the enforcement departments, we feel the new standards are long overdue and well needed," said Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead. The law simply codifies into law what most law enforcement departments are following as policy. The Moffat County Sheriff's Department already uses a stricter policy for hiring practices and decertification, Grinstead said.