Leslie Herod, Mari Newman Reflect on Colorado Win

Leslie Herod and Mari Newman reflect on Colorado win. Last year, Colorado took a bold step. It became the first state to end qualified immunity (QI). Moreover, Leslie Herod and Mari Newman were instrumental in passing this reform. In their USA Today op-ed, the Colorado trailblazers discuss how they led the Centennial State toward eliminating QI.  

In August 2019, Colorado police killed Elijah McClain and D’von Bailey. Furious at the “widespread [police] brutality against people of color,” Leslie Herod and Mari Newman joined forces. They got to work. Newman recalls that they “spent months…brainstorming and drafting legislation.” Specifically, legislation to end QI. 

At first, it wasn’t easy. In fact, “there was simply no political appetite for reform at the Colorado Capitol.” Then, in May 2020, bad cop Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in Minnesota. Everything changed. Furthermore, Colorado took action.

“The combination of COVID-19 shutdowns and police brutality playing out on Americans’ smartphones across the nation created an environment I had never seen before,” Leslie Herod says in USA Today. “Thousands of people from across the state were all singing from the same page. It was time for real accountability.”

Following “intense” negotiations, Leslie Herod and Mari Newman led the way. The result was a powerful civil rights bill. The bill, SB 217, stipulated that “qualified immunity is not a defense to liability.” In June 2020, Governor Jared Polis signed SB 217. And Colorado made history. It defeated qualified immunity. 

“I’m often asked how we did it,” Leslie Herod says. “How did we get folks like the ACLU and Black Lives Matter activists to agree to a bill with the law enforcement lobby?” 

Her answer: “The pressure coming directly from the people of Colorado demanding change was immense, and it was bipartisan and reached across racial demographics.”

Colorado has set the standard nationwide. As a result, other states have taken notice. For example, New Mexico and California. Both states have passed civil rights bills that strengthened public safety. 

“States like Colorado paved a path toward legislatively banning qualified immunity and implementing other accountability measures,” conclude Leslie Herod and Mari Newman, “and it’s working. The rest of the country can, and should, follow suit.”

Read the entire article by Leslie Herod and Mari Newman here.