A split screen might be the best way to think about government transparency in Colorado in 2019. On one side is the ground-breaking new state law that opens records on completed police internal affairs investigations. On the other is the trend among law enforcement agencies in our state to encrypt 100 percent of their scanner transmissions.
A major battle plays out daily in Colorado as some of our elected and appointed officials – all of whom took a solemn oath to serve all Coloradans – do everything possible to frustrate disclosing information belonging to the people. These fights involve access to records concerning public policies created with taxpayer dollars.
A case before the Colorado Court of Appeals focuses on what city councils and other government boards must tell the public before they meet in private.
There was no need to wait for final adjournment to see that the 2019 Colorado legislative session was a productive one for freedom of information and First Amendment-related issues. Gov. Jared Polis cinched that on April 12, when he signed into law a groundbreaking transparency bill that ensures the public disclosure of records on police internal affairs investigations.
A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature would significantly expand our knowledge about who is incarcerated in county jails throughout the state, also providing the public and policymakers with a statewide picture.
Bipartisan legislation designed to fix an “unintended consequence” of the 2014 ballot initiative that opened school district bargaining sessions to the public won unanimous approval Tuesday in the House Education Committee.
Reporters have been more likely to get a no-such-records-exist response since the Colorado legislature in 2016 adopted a simplified and expedited process for sealing the criminal records of defendants who are acquitted or have completed a diversion agreement or a deferred sentence, or their cases are dismissed.
Following up on a 2018 study showing that Colorado law enforcement departments regularly reject requests for internal affairs files, a University of Denver law student found that agencies in several other states have no problem disclosing such records to the public.
HIPAA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, enacted by Congress in 1996. The law’s privacy rules, designed to protect the confidential health information of patients, often are misunderstood and misapplied, and that certainly seems to be the case with the July 5 detention of Greene near the state Capitol, according to legal experts.
To commemorate CORA’s golden anniversary, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition asked a few Coloradans for their thoughts on what what the open records law means to them and what it has meant for the people of our state.