Colorado's hotly debated red flag law went into effect Jan. 1, meaning law enforcement agencies across the state implemented local policies for enforcing the gun legislation. The state law allows a …
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Colorado's hotly debated red flag law went into effect Jan. 1, meaning law enforcement agencies across the state implemented local policies for enforcing the gun legislation.
The state law allows a judge to temporarily order the confiscation of firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. Law enforcement, household members or relatives can petition a judge to issue the protection orders, called extreme risk protections orders, or ERPOs.
If the person petitioning the judge is a law enforcement officer, the bill also requires filing a search warrant request. The same is not true for a citizen-initiated order.
Under the law, those who don't comply with an ERPO will be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor. Anyone who files a false, malicious petition for an ERPO can also be charged with a crime.
As of press time, there had not been any citizen-initiated or law enforcement-initiated ERPOs in Castle Rock, but a policy is in place to manage them if they arise.
Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley spoke to Colorado Community Media about the town's policy and how temporary or continuing extreme risk protection orders (T/ERPOs) will be enforced in Castle Rock.
What do you think about this law? Does it have the potential to save lives?
What I can tell you is that our mission is to apply the law and ensure that we follow what the law states.
It is a new law, and it is a law that most of us don't have a lot of experience with.
I think we're going to have to have some practical experience with the law before we know specific challenges that we need to address.
I think that as law enforcement agencies have experience with the law, we will have an idea of suggestions to legislators, if there are areas of the law that we can improve for everybody.
Will this department and its officers initiate T/ERPOs?
The officers have been trained with the policy and the law and if they were to come across a situation that they felt was appropriate to utilize this law, our policy directs them to contact a supervisor and to forward this information to our investigations division.
So, we're going to have a focal point within our department where any extreme risk protection orders that are generated go. We felt it was important to have it focused in one particular area of our department.
Why place this under the investigations division's oversight?
We felt that funneling these types of concerns and reports to them would provide us with a smaller group of people who have an expertise with how to move forward with these concerns.
How high should the bar be set for someone to pursue a T/ERPO?
That's a hard one. When an officer has a concern and if they are the ones that are observing the particular issue, then they have available to them the counsel of their supervisor, our legal department and certainly investigations will look at it. So, these decisions are not made in a vacuum.
Again, especially because it's a new law and something that we don't have a lot of history or experience with, we wanted to have a number of experienced law enforcement personnel involved in looking at the facts and then proceeding appropriately from there.
What should officers keep in mind when considering when to utilize this law?
The No. 1 concern is the safety of the community member that they're having contact with, and then how they can provide that individual with the necessary protections.
There are many avenues that we have available to us outside of ERPOs that we can utilize, and that we do utilize on a daily basis, to keep people safe. This just happens to be one more tool.
The law does not automatically require a search warrant accompany a citizen-initiated T/ERPO. Will the police department seek one in that instance?
That will be fact-specific.
If we don't have probable cause to believe that we need to get a warrant, then we won't.
What if officers serve a T/ERPO and the subject of the protection order says they don't have firearms?
If we don't have probable cause to believe that they have guns, then we're done unless we were to get further information.
It's no different from any other situation we have where we don't have probable cause for a warrant. We're obviously not going down that road.
What happens if the individual who's subject to a citizen-initiated ERPO, for which a search warrant has not been issued, confirms they have guns, but they refuse to surrender them?
If they say they have them, then we let them know that, as you can tell, the judge has signed this order for you to relinquish the firearms.
We would just take it from there and see where we need to go.
The town's policy talks about how officers will prepare to serve a T/ERPO, emphasizing the need to collect background information on the subject, conduct risk assessments and consult the department's Critical Response Team, which specializes in mental health calls. Why was this important to include?
We want to ensure the safety of our community members and the safety of our police officers, so we wanted to make sure that we are like we are in all these types of cases — be prepared as possible.
We want to be sophisticated about how we do this and use all the information that we have available to us.
What is the most important thing you want the community to know about how Castle Rock will approach the red flag law?
I want them to know that we have a comprehensive policy written, we have trained our officers well, we have and will work with our legal staff to ensure that as we apply this law it is done in the safest manner possible, while ensuring the rights of individuals are protected.
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