Colorado bill to restrict prone restraint moves forward

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The bill was crafted after a lengthy 9NEWS investigation connected more than 130 deaths to the common restraint technique.

DENVER — Legislation to limit the use of prone – or facedown – restraint passed its first big test at the Colorado State Capitol Tuesday. 

The bill, crafted after a lengthy 9NEWS investigation connected more than 130 deaths to the common restraint technique, would require officers to place prone arrestees into what’s known as a recovery position immediately after handcuffing.

In 2020, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, 9NEWS began to link deaths that followed handcuffing and prone restraint. The deaths included well-known cases like Floyd’s, but also included deaths that had largely avoided widespread scrutiny — like the 2020 death of Chad Burnett in Colorado Springs and the 2022 death of Arthur Roybal in the Adams County Jail.

> PRONE: Facedown and handcuffed is no way to die, yet it keeps happening over and over again

> PRONE: 16 minutes facedown, strapped down, and handcuffed

The U.S. Department of Justice, in 1995, warned law enforcement officers across the country that prone restraint could lead to positional asphyxia and advised officers to roll arrestees onto their side immediately following handcuffing.

Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing was marked by a steady stream of law enforcement opposition to the bill as written due to the fact that the bill would have banned the use of prone restraint except for cases when “deadly force” would be justified.

The wording, to many officers, meant that a common law enforcement restraint technique would have been effectively banned in the state.

An amendment brought forth by bill sponsors Rep. Steven Woodrow (D-Denver) and Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) dropped the “deadly force” justification. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee by an 8-3 vote.

Sheneen McClain, mother of Elijah McClain, was among those who spoke in favor of the legislation Tuesday.

“My son died in the prone position,” she told legislators. “My son just wanted to sit up so that he could breathe better, but also to get rid of the blood and vomit that was filling his lungs.”

The bill, House Bill 1372, now moves to the House Appropriations Committee.

RELATED: Colorado legislators move to ban dangerous law enforcement restraint technique

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Colorado bill to restrict prone restraint moves forward

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