Year after year, unarmed Black Americans are harassed and killed by police officers using excessive force, and every year communities cry out and voice concerns about the unjust treatment of people of color. While many just started to pay attention during the historic protests following the murder of George Floyd, the movement or Black lives has been happening for generations. As a young child, Leslie recalls conversations between her mom and brother: “keep your hands out of your pockets, keep your arms up and don’t talk back.”
Law Enforcement Reform.
During the summer of 2020, Leslie worked alongside protesters and members of the community to pass historic law enforcement reform which increased transparency and accountability for Colorado Law Enforcement officers and ended Qualified Immunity [SB20-217]. Since then she has passed additional legislation strengthening and expanding this reform [HB21-1250].
But Leslie didn’t stop there.
On August 29, 2019, while walking home from the store, Elijah McClain was stopped by police on completely baseless grounds. Police officers held him to the ground with his hands behind his back while another police officer put him in a choke hold. He begged the police officers to get off him. To “calm him down” on site medics injected him with double the appropriate dosage of ketamine. Elijah went into cardiac arrest and died on his way to the hospital.
Just days earlier, Elijah McKnight was stopped by police. Despite being handcuffed and cooperating with police, he was injected with two doses of ketamine at the request of Law Enforcement. McKnight was then hospitalized for a week where he said he thought he was going to die.
These aren’t isolated incidents. There were 454 cases in 2019 in which Ketamine was administered outside of a hospital setting to sedate “extremely agitated patients” -- 24% of these cases resulted in health complications for the patient. In response, Leslie passed legislation to limit the use of ketamine in prehospital settings when law enforcement is present and prohibit peace officers from using or unduly influencing the use of ketamine to effectuate an arrest [HB21-1251].
These reforms respond to the community’s plea for law enforcement officers to be held accountable to unnecessary violence against Black and brown communities. Peace officers are first and foremost public servants, and they must be held to the highest standard of conduct and responsibility--otherwise, they undermine the very core of their duty – to protect and serve. Leslie will continue working with advocates to ensure accountability within law enforcement.