Local law enforcement objects to revised law limiting custodial arrests


After SB21-062, “Jail Population Management Tools: Concerning measures to reduce jail populations” was introduced on February 16, 19 police chiefs and sheriffs in south metro Denver wrote an open letter titled, “18th Judicial District Chiefs’ and Sheriffs’ Opposition Letter for Colorado Senate Bill 21-062” dated March 25, to voice their strong objections to its contents. We reported about that action in the April 1 issue of The Villager. That bill was subsequently withdrawn by its sponsors.

On May 14, SB21-273, “Pretrial Reform: Concerning measures to increase public safety by minimizing custodial responses to low-level offenses,” was introduced to accomplish many of the same goals as the original legislation while making certain changes to respond to criticisms that had been raised about SB21-062.

On May 24, another open letter titled, “18th Judicial Attorney, Sheriffs’, and Chiefs’ Opposition Letter to Colorado Senate Bill 21-273” was issued. It contains a total of 18 signatures, including 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner, the sheriffs of Arapahoe, Douglas and Lincoln Counties, and thirteen area police chiefs.

The letter says, in part, that, if the bill becomes law, the law enforcement officials believe that “the impact on public safety will be extremely detrimental.” They express concern about “significant increases in crime that we have seen over the last year,” due in part to “the short-term limitations that were put in place regarding the jail populations due to the impacts of the virus.” 

The revised bill, SB21-273, has the same problem as did the previous one, according to the police chiefs and sheriffs, in that “it will limit law enforcement officers’ ability to enforce the law and to make arrests that would be reasonable and necessary to protect the public,” thus it will “inevitably compromise public safety and quality-of-life factors that all of our citizens deserve.”

The law chiefs also express concern that the bill “removes a judge’s ability to assess each case and make a determination regarding what would be a proper pre-trial bail, if any bail should be imposed, and effectively eliminates the courts’ ability to efficiently get a defendant set up with pre-trial services.” They believe that it “directly limits judges’ ability to manage their cases and defendants.”

The signers even raise strong objections to the title of the bill, stating that it neither increases public safety, as it says, nor does it help local sheriffs “manage their jail population.” The law enforcement leaders’ letter refers to both SB21-062 and SB21-273 as “pro-criminal legislation,” stating that, “we would be abdicating our oaths to protect and serve our communities if we did not speak out against” these proposed laws.

Pointing to the lack of consultation with members of the law enforcement community before drafting and proposing either the original or the newly revised bill, the chiefs and sheriffs close their thoughts with, “Laws that are continually created and enacted without listening to the voices of community members and professional law enforcement officials create potential outcomes of lawlessness.”