Polis throws weight behind police reform, avoids specifics

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FILE—In this Thursday, May 28, 2020, file photograph, Colorado Governor Jared Polis makes a point during a news conference about the state’s efforts against the new coronavirus in Denver. In a press conference on June 4, Polis said he is opposed to “any effort to thwart real reform” and increase accountability for police. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DENVER | Governor Jared Polis said Thursday he’s opposed to “any effort to thwart real reform” of police officers and accountability for violent cops. 

At a regularly-scheduled press conference, Polis did not specifically say when asked by a reporter whether he supports the sweeping police reform bill, SB20-217, under consideration June 4 in the Colorado State Senate. The measure would dramatically reign in the use of violent force by police officers and allow residents to sue cops for broad violations including any “constitutional right secured by the bill of rights of the Colorado constitution.” 

But Polis did say he’s “looking forward to working with the legislature to meet the needs of this time…that creates real, lasting, enduring change” and reinstates trust in police departments. 

“There’s no excuse not to pass a bill,” Polis added. 

Asked for specific reforms he’d like to see in a bill, Polis floated establishing sensitivity trainings for police departments and community-based policing models.

Aurora police have implemented community policing structures since the department instituted police area representatives in 1983. Each PAR officer is assigned to a specific geographic area of the city and is expected to learn the unique issues that appear in each neighborhood. Former Chief Nick Metz also created a community policing advisory team in 2017.

Polis did not commit to physically joining protesters in Downtown Denver. Mayor Michael Hancock spoke at a protest crowd Wednesday joined by aides who made promises to fire malfeasant police officers, the Denver Post reported.

The governor also said he is open to meeting with protesters in groups of 10 or less in accordance with state social distancing guidelines.

Polis focused on the COVID-19 pandemic for much of Thursday’s press conference. 

The widespread civil unrest is expected to spread the novel coronavirus. Many protesters have declined to wear masks or keep them on for the duration of the protest. Crowds also remain tightly-packed in gatherings and marches. 

Polis encouraged Coloradans to keep wearing masks.

“A mask-wearing culture is our ticket to opening soon, and to staying safe and saving lives,” he said. “….It’s important for demonstrations, it’s important for going to the store.”

More than 27,000 positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Colorado as of June 3, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data. It was attributed to almost 1,500 deaths. 

Tri-County Health Department officially tallied 3,736 COVID-19 cases in Aurora as of June 3.