Should you have to show identification to inspect or get copies of public records? Unlike a few states such as Virginia and Tennessee, Colorado has no requirement that freedom-of-information requests be made by people who actually live in the state. So what’s the point? Is it legal?
Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act
Two years ago, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition published a study showing that at least 26 states offer some kind of dispute-resolution process as an alternative to suing the government for improperly withholding public records. We asked whether the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) should provide another way to appeal a rejection. Now, a candidate for Colorado attorney general is trying to focus attention on the same issue by “crowdsourcing” a proposal on social media.
Unlike a year ago, when state lawmakers improved access to public records, the 2018 session of the Colorado General Assembly was marked by the passage of legislation that will significantly hinder the public’s right to know if it’s signed into law.
A legislative effort to open records on police internal affairs investigations, or at least encourage their disclosure to the public, died when the Senate sponsor of the bill had it killed in committee.
An amended bill endorsed by the Colorado House no longer opens records on police internal affairs files, but essentially encourages their disclosure once an investigation is complete.
Aurora has agreed to revise its policies on the disclosure of police internal affairs records as part of a lawsuit settlement, but a new court case alleges the city wrongly withheld body-worn camera footage related to a traffic accident involving Denver Police Chief Robert White.
A bill to require public disclosure of police internal affairs records cleared its first legislative hurdle on a 7-4 vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
Colorado would join a dozen other states that require public disclosure of internal records on police misconduct under legislation introduced in the House.
The Denver Department of Public Safety, which includes the police and sheriff’s departments, should publish written guidelines for releasing video of critical incidents such as the 2015 death of jail inmate Michael Marshall, the city’s police monitor recommended this week.
New research makes a case for reforming Colorado’s criminal justice records statute to require the public release of files on completed internal affairs investigations concerning law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing.