Colorado: One Year Without Qualified Immunity

Colorado has gone one year without qualified immunity (QI). In 2020, Colorado made police reform history. It became the first state to end qualified immunity. What effect has that had on policing in the Centennial State? Newsy takes a look.

More than a year ago, SB217 effectively ended QI in Colorado. As Newsy remarks, the measure was “arguably the most sweeping statewide police reform bill in the country.” 

Governor Jared Polis signed SB217 in June 2020. Furthermore, he signed the bill less than one month after George Floyd’s murder. SB217 included a number of “popular” reforms. For example, banning chokeholds and requiring body cameras. The provision to end QI was also popular. 

Popular, but “controversial.” As Newsy explains, defenders of the court-created rule claim that QI “is necessary to protect officers from frivolous lawsuits.”

However, legal experts have already debunked this claim. For example, Professor Joanna Schwartz published a 2014 study that reveals how ending QI will not bankrupt police officers. In addition, in the year since Colorado repealed the doctrine, “there has not been some rash of frivolous lawsuits” against police officers, says civil rights attorney Mari Newman. “In fact,” Newman tells Newsy, “the sky hasn’t fallen at all.” 

If anything, things in Colorado are better. And they’re better because one year ago, the state took real action against police brutality. Colorado established a solid system of accountability for the victims of police misconduct. One year in, and Colorado is doing great without QI. 

Check out Newsy’s inside look at Colorado’s first year without qualified immunity here.