A judge has ruled that Colorado’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board is a criminal justice agency, possibly hampering legal efforts by two news organizations to obtain the state’s database of certified law enforcement officers.
Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act
A judge rejected a Denver news organization’s argument for publicly disclosing photos showing the tourniquet and plastic bed sheets allegedly used to kill an inmate at the federal Supermax prison in Florence last year.
The Colorado Supreme Court removed a frustrating barrier for some requesters of police internal affairs records, deciding that criminal justice agencies may not withhold completed IA files from the public simply because the requester has not referenced a “specific, identifiable incident” of alleged misconduct by an officer.
One change will impact the release of body-worn and dashboard camera footage, and another might help mitigate the loss of public information caused by the encryption of police radio transmissions. Two additional provisions address public access to records of completed police internal affairs investigations and lists of officers who have credibility issues.
State representatives inserted a provision addressing police radio encryption into a law-enforcement accountability measure that builds on the major police reform bill passed in 2020.
A lawsuit filed by The Gazette, reporter Chris Osher and The Invisible Institute, a Chicago-based journalism nonprofit, seeks the public disclosure of Colorado’s database of certified law enforcement officers.
The indisputably terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year 2020 ended with at least one bright spot in Colorado: On Dec. 17, the state Supreme Court formally adopted a new Rule of Criminal Procedure (Colo.R.Cr.P. 55.1) that sets both procedural and substantive standards for when a trial judge may “suppress” judicial records on file in criminal cases.
COVID-19 touched nearly every aspect of our lives in 2020 so of course it affected government transparency and public access to courts in Colorado.
All we want for Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa (besides world peace, an end to the pandemic and less partisan rancor) are better open-government laws for Coloradans.
Incidents in Colorado and elsewhere show the limitations of HB 19-1119 as a tool of transparency, accountability and for building trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. More could be done to ensure the public knows when officers are accused of misconduct or of using excessive force, how those allegations are investigated and whether and how discipline is imposed.