Appeals court clarifies defendants’ ability to access officers’ personnel files

Colorado Politics: Colorado’s second-highest court has clarified that criminal defendants are not automatically entitled to have a trial judge review and possibly release a police officer’s personnel file, but instead must show the request is factually relevant and not a “general fishing expedition.”

Last month, the state’s Court of Appeals determined a La Plata County judge acted appropriately when he declined to review the files of William Benjamin Cline VI’s arresting officer “in camera,” meaning behind closed doors. Cline stood trial in 2019 for assaulting a police officer and argued he had a right to information in Deputy Antaeus Draughon’s file related to his credibility.

However, “Cline did not articulate any factual basis for believing that Deputy Draughon’s personnel file includes complaints of excessive force or dishonesty. His claim that such documents exist was mere speculation,” wrote Judge Jaclyn Casey Brown in the three-member appellate panel’s Nov. 23 opinion.

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