- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

DENVER (AP) - Colorado lawmakers are starting to quantify the state’s racial profiling by law enforcement in the aftermath of high-profile clashes between the public and officers around the nation.

A committee of lawmakers on Tuesday had the first of several meetings they’ll hold by year’s end, with the goal of proposing legislation on how to collect demographic data on arrests, stops, and searches to determine if there are troublesome trends.

“This is an immensely complicated issue, one that goes way back in history many, many generations,” said Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat who has been one of the more vocal supporters of additional oversight on law enforcement.

Current state law bars police profiling based on race, ethnicity, age or gender. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and Nick Mitchell, Denver’s independent watchdog of the police department, told lawmakers that the state lacks comprehensive data on how often profiling happens.

Mitchell told lawmakers he often hears complaints about racial profiling at community meetings he attends, but that he’s in a tough position of not having enough data to help ease concerns and perceptions that certain groups are being targeted.

Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson acknowledged that over the last year “some of the public trust has been fractured,” but he insists it has not been lost.

“I personally don’t think it’s as bad as everybody thinks that it is and if everybody jumps on the ‘Don’t-trust-the-police-department bandwagon’ then that’s where they are,” he said. “It’s our job to ensure public trust and public safety and we’ll continue to do that.”

Jackson, who previously served as the president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, emphasized that departments don’t condone profiling. He warned that collecting more data on law enforcement interactions with the public will be costly and time-consuming.

“Somebody better be prepared to write a big check,” he said.

Colorado legislators this year passed several laws in response to cases of alleged misconduct and excessive force by law enforcement nationally and in the state. Some of the new laws include establishing a grant program to increase the use of body cameras and allowing agencies to look at officers’ job histories to find instances of misconduct before making a hiring decision.

One proposal would’ve expanded the state’s definition of racial profiling to include sexual orientation, disability, and socio-economic status. That bill failed, but lawmakers agreed to create a committee to look at the issue.

Any legislation the committee decides to introduce will happen at the beginning of the next legislative session in January.


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