Constitutional training overdue for State Patrol
Three years after a Colorado State Patrol trooper shot and killed an unarmed Redlands man in his own home, the agency is providing training to its active-duty patrolmen on how to handle the events that led to the fatal outcome.
It’s about time.
Jason Kemp was shot in 2010 inside his Grand Junction home when he refused entrance to two since-fired troopers who didn’t have a warrant. A Mesa County jury found the shooter, Trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer, not guilty on charges that included criminally negligent homicide.
Incredibly, Lawyer testified during his trial that he had received very little, if any, training on Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure issues. Troopers primarily enforce traffic regulations and rarely find themselves dealing with suspects who barricade themselves inside a home.
The aftermath of the shooting revealed a systemic breakdown within the department. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a wrongful-death civil lawsuit on behalf of Kemp’s family, was prepared to prove “not only that state troopers violated the Constitution when they unjustifiably kicked in Jason Kemp’s front door and shot and killed him, but also that supervisors all the way up the chain of command were responsible for recklessly deficient training that was the ultimate cause of this needless and preventable death,” ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a news release.
The CSP settled the case for $1 million. Part of the settlement includes training that focuses on constitutional protections.
It’s disquieting that a statewide law enforcement agency needs to train its officers on a cornerstone of the Bill of Rights.
But better late than never. We hope the training and departmental reforms will prevent a similar tragedy. But we urge the CSP to emphasize discretion. The training should direct troopers to call on the assistance of local law enforcement agencies — who are more experienced in search-and-seizure laws — when pursuing suspects.