In June 2020, Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 217 into Colorado law. The legislation sets in motion several sweeping reforms for our state’s police departments. These changes include:
- Required body cameras
- A ban on chokeholds and carotid holds
- Statewide law enforcement data tracking, and
- Protections for protestors
These are just some of the provisions included in SB20-217. This Denver Post article goes into much greater depth on these provisions, most of which do not call FPPA benefits into question.
However, there is one portion of the new legislation that has raised some questions and concerns regarding FPPA-managed pension benefits: the issue of Qualified Immunity.
Qualified Immunity impacts on FPPA police member pensions
Senate Bill 217 removes the qualified immunity defense, allowing people to sue police officers in their individual capacities for civil rights violations. As explained in the Denver Post, “Officers determined not to have acted in good faith or with a reasonable belief that what they did was legal can be held personally liable for 5% of a judgment or settlement or $25,000, whichever is less.”
But could this reform impact an FPPA member’s pension benefit if they faced a judgment as a result of a lawsuit?
The short answer, according to existing state law, is no. Colorado law does not provide for forfeiture of a pension for police brutality or a similar act.
The only loss of first responder pension addressed in Colorado statute would be related to:
- The theft, embezzlement, misappropriation, or wrongful conversion of public property, or
- In the event of a judgment for a willful and intentional violation of certain fiduciary duties where there is direct financial gain
Similar rules exist for other government employee pensions in Colorado as well.