Kemp death spurs change in training at State Patrol

CSP Trooper Gene Lawyer after the reading of the verdict at the Mesa County Justice Center.



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CSP Trooper Gene Lawyer after the reading of the verdict at the Mesa County Justice Center.

Three years ago Saturday, Jason Kemp was shot and killed in his Redlands home.

Starting Wednesday, the aftermath sends the frontline troopers of the Colorado State Patrol back to school.

The first of several “in-service” training sessions for troopers — partially focused on constitutional protections — is scheduled Wednesday at the State Patrol’s training academy in Golden.

“This isn’t occurring solely because of the (civil lawsuit) settlement, but it’s including certain Fourth Amendment issues because of the settlement,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Colorado chapter.

ACLU played a role in shaping curriculum for the upcoming trainings, which are sessions exclusively for active-duty troopers. ACLU staff attorney Rebecca Wallace will sit in on Wednesday’s first session, Silverstein said.

State Patrol Capt. Jeff Goodwin said the agency’s supervisors have been getting the same training — under the guidance of the Colorado Attorney General’s office — since last fall.

“The CSP has trained all supervisors from the rank of corporal to the chief,” Goodwin said. “To date, (Wednesday) will be the eighth training class and we will continue until all members of the department have been trained.”

Goodwin said topics include U.S. constitutional law, Fourth Amendment training and “discussions relevant to established case law,” among other points.

According to the settlement of the civil lawsuit filed in Kemp’s case, Colorado State Patrol was tasked with covering several specific training points, including but not limited to:

■ “How to arrest or detain a barricaded subject without violating the Fourth Amendment and without unduly jeopardizing the health and safety of officers, suspects and the public.”

■ “De-escalation tactics.”

■ “The limited circumstances in which an officer may require a suspect to take a non-consensual blood-alcohol test.”

■ “When force may be used to enter a home and what level of force is appropriate under what circumstances.”

■ Case law on dissipation of blood-alcohol evidence, exigent circumstances, including that, “the need to obtain BAC evidence will not, as a general rule, create the level of imminency to override the constitutional protection against warrantless entry.”

According to the settlement, the State Patrol must be able to document by June 30, 2014, that all “applicable officers” have received the training.

Kemp, 31, was shot and killed July 20, 2010, as a pair of now-former troopers were investigating a minor traffic accident in which Kemp was suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol near his home at 103 Glade Park Road, Unit B.

Kemp was in his home when a scuffle started at the door and troopers tried contacting Kemp — pounding and kicking at the front door — in what prosecutors argued was attempted illegal entry.

Kemp was shot and killed by Trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer after Lawyer testified he saw Kemp’s right hand raise quickly, believing he might have been armed, when the front door to the home swung open suddenly. Kemp was unarmed.

A Mesa County jury found Lawyer not guilty on charges including criminally negligent homicide on April 19, 2012.

Prosecutors dropped a case built on similar evidence against Lawyer’s colleague at the scene of Kemp’s death, Cpl. Kirk Firko.

Both Lawyer and Firko were later fired by the State Patrol.

In January, Kemp’s parents, Georgia residents Keith and Connie Kemp, settled a federal wrongful death lawsuit with the state of Colorado for $1 million as the State Patrol agreed to implement its current new curriculum.

Kemp’s sister, Leisel, said Friday her family has “some hope” for a federal civil rights prosecution, three years later.

“Jason’s family and friends were shocked and disappointed by the outcome of the criminal trial in April 2012, but will continue to seek justice no matter how long it takes,” Kemp said in a prepared statement.



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