Colorado House passes chemical-restraint bill inspired by Elijah McClain case

Colorado Democrats effort to substantially limit first responders’ use of ketamine and other chemical restraints passed the House on Friday.

HB21-1251 passed with 37-25 vote, with all Democrats but La Jara Rep. Donald Valdez in support and all Republicans opposed.

The bill prohibits a police officer from “using, requesting, causing, directing, or influencing the use of a chemical restraint upon another person.” It’s inspired by Aurora’s Elijah McClain, who prior to his death in a hospital was injected by paramedics with a high dosage of ketamine that officials later determined to be appropriate for someone weighing 200 pounds. McClain weighed 143 pounds.

Lawmakers want first responders who do administer ketamine, haloperidol “or any other medication that is severely dependent on the weight of an individual” to accurately weigh a person and monitor vital signs before any dosage.

Denver Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod is a lead sponsor of the bill, and said the House passage “reconfirmed our commitment to working on issues of law enforcement and integrity.”

“We want to make sure they’re not stepping beyond their duties and directing the use of a drug so deadly and volatile that it’s resulted in the death of people like Elijah McClain,” she added.

Law enforcement officials have argued the bill’s focus is misdirected because paramedics bear the responsibility of safe administration of drugs to subdue people, not police. The bill has also faced some criticism from the left by people who believe the state should outright ban the use of chemical restraints.

HB21-1251 moves next to the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats. It is expected to pass that chamber.

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