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Colorado Lawmakers Advance Police Oversight Bills

DENVER (AP) - Colorado legislators gave initial approval Wednesday to three bills designed to increase oversight on law enforcement after high-profile cases alleging excessive force in the state and nationwide.

One proposal would allow law enforcement agencies to look at officers' job histories before hiring them to find out whether they have lied during an investigation. Currently, officers can negotiate nondisclosure agreements upon their departure from a job to block access to their personnel records.

"It's a transparency measure," said Sen. Ellen Roberts, a Republican sponsoring the bill. She said her proposal is not an implication that Colorado has a rampant problem with officer dishonesty. But she said she wants to address the "bad apples" who "don't have the highest integrity in the performance of their duties."

Another measure would start data collection on officer-involved shootings to include demographic information about the officer and the person shot, as well as the circumstances surrounding each incident, to determine whether problematic trends exist.

A third bill would change how officer-involved shootings are investigated. Instead of only having the jurisdiction where the shooting happened review a case, other agencies would be involved to try to eliminate potential conflicts of a department and a district attorney investigating an officer with whom they work.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bills unanimously Wednesday, with support from law enforcement officials.

Roberts is sponsoring the bills with Republican Sen. John Cooke, a former sheriff. The measures have Democrat sponsors in the House.

In all, lawmakers are considering about a dozen bills dealing with oversight and limits on law enforcement in wake of public outcry over the killing of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York. In Denver, police have been dealing with public outcry over the fatal shooting in January of 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez.

"I think we all can agree that one of the things that has kind of floated to the surface with national events is the sense of again, transparency and fairness and trying to find out what really happened and to restore public confidence that we will hold ourselves accountable - as a society we will hold law enforcement accountable."

Police and sheriffs groups have cooperated with bill writers and are generally supportive of the ideas, as long as they're funded and don't interfere with officer safety and their ability to do their jobs.

Other bills to be reviewed later include expanding the use of officer body cameras and appointing special prosecutors to review some police shootings when no charges are filed.

- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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