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Colorado Bill Requires Law Enforcement to Codify Prone Restraint Policy

A new bill would require Colorado law enforcement agencies to publish policy on the controversial "prone restraint", a technique that many critics link to the deaths of those restrained facedown.

A bill that would require Colorado law enforcement agencies to create and publish policy on the use of a controversial restraint technique will soon be heading to the governor's desk.

Originally introduced in March, HB24-1372 tackles the law enforcement technique often referred to as "prone restraint," in which a person is restrained, most often in handcuffs behind their back, facedown on the ground.

Critics of the technique say deaths of people who were restrained facedown have been tied to the technique. Among them in Colorado are Elijah McClain, whose mother Sheneen McClain testified in favor of the bill, and Chad Burnett of Colorado Springs.

The bill's original language sought to ban the use of prone restraint in all law enforcement encounters except those that authorized the use of deadly force. Some law enforcement agencies including the Colorado Springs Police Department opposed that version of the bill, saying that the technique was a safe and effective way to subdue suspects and that limiting use would endanger officers and the public.

A broad amendment in the House Judiciary Committee significantly changed the purpose of the bill in April. The amended version dropped the lethal force requirement and now requires law enforcement agencies to just adopt and publish a policy on prone restraint by July 1, 2026, including how and when officers should move a suspect into a "recovery position" to help with breathing.

The bill also identifies prone restraint as a use of force, subject to criminal review and disciplinary measures through the peace officers standards and training board.

The CSPD has been in favor of the bill's requirement to codify a prone restraint policy. CSPD chief Adrian Vasquez said in an email statement in April that his department would be adopting a written policy about the technique regardless of the passage of the bill.

"While CSPD has been training our officers since 2015 on the proper use of prone restraint, including moving a suspect into a recovery position as soon as safely possible, my department will be drafting a written policy directly addressing the use of prone restraint, which will be made public," he wrote.

However, the bill's use of force designation, and the subsequent defining of prone restraint within Colorado's criminal law, does still garner opposition from the CSPD. Spokesperson Ira Cronin said in a statement on Thursday that the CSPD still found the bill misguided.

"While we are grateful the bill was amended to not ban prone restraint except in a situation that rises to the level of deadly force being authorized, we are opposed to the policy and training requirements being located in the criminal code rather than a more appropriate law. The bill, in its current form, amends a law that is written exclusively to evaluate legal justifications for individuals' use of force and should not include administrative requirements of law enforcement agencies. However, again, we do support the transformation of the bill from the introduced version with dangerous restrictions on officers' use of prone restraint to the version the governor will sign. CSPD is supportive of using policy and training as a way to advance our profession and our officers' knowledge."

Cronin said that as of Thursday the CSPD has not yet finished writing its own prone restraint policy, saying that the department was "in the process of researching appropriate policy language."

©2024 The Gazette, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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