Jessica Hernandez shooting ignites debate over police transparency

From The Denver Post:  The shooting death of 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez has opened another debate about police transparency during investigations of their own officers.

The Denver Police Department has pledged to be open with the community while releasing few details about the events that transpired early Monday in an alley in the Park Hill neighborhood. Colorado law allows police and sheriff’s departments wide discretion in deciding how much information they release and when they will release it.

However, critics argue that secrecy hinders police efforts to build trust in the communities they serve.

“In my view, to keep information about a shooting incident like this under wraps is counterproductive,” said Steve Zansberg, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “It undermines the police department’s ability to engage the community. It makes citizens less likely to cooperate and assist in investigations, which is crucial to effective law enforcement.”

At a news conference Thursday, Police Chief Robert White said he was limited on what he can say by the Denver district attorney’s office, which is conducting a criminal investigation into the two officers’ actions. The officers have been placed on administrative leave, standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss anything that could remotely impact the outcome of the investigation,” he said.

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