Steamboat newspaper won’t sue for release of reports on police misconduct investigation

From Steamboat Today (Steamboat Springs):  The Steamboat Pilot & Today and the city of Steamboat Springs have reached an impasse over the release of three portions of the police investigation conducted by independent investigator Katherine Nuanes.

The newspaper requested the city release the full investigative report under the Colorado Open Records Act on July 10. Soon after, the city released Reports 1, 2 and 6, before characterizing the final three sections of the report — Reports 3, 4 and 5 — as criminal justice records. This response from the city required Interim Police Chief Jerry DeLong to review the reports being withheld and make the decision whether to release them.

On Sept. 10, DeLong denied the newspaper’s request, claiming the reports were criminal justice records protected by the Colorado Criminal Justice Record Act and not subject to the Colorado Open Records Act. Under the CCJRA, DeLong’s response complies with the law but only if the reports are truly criminal justice records, and that is where the basis for disagreement lies.

From the start, the investigation into allegations of misconduct by the Steamboat Police Department’s top two leaders was unusual.

The investigation was sparked by the dissemination of a 10-page letter written by a former police detective. The document, which was emailed to Steamboat Springs City Council members, Routt County officeholders and select members of the community, listed numerous instances of police misconduct, but many of the allegations were based on hearsay rather than first-person knowledge.

The letter prompted the city to hire an independent investigator to conduct an investigation into the allegations. Nuanes, the investigator eventually hired by the city, was not a law enforcement official at the time of the investigation. Her report was not prepared for the police department, and she did not report to any law enforcement agency. Instead, Nuanes reported first to former City Manager Deb Hinsvark and then to Anne Small, the city’s director of general services.

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