Footage from police body-worn cameras clearly fits the definition of criminal justice records in one of Colorado’s freedom-of-information laws: All materials, including recordings, “made, maintained, or kept” by criminal justice agencies. But some district attorneys are relying on more than the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act to determine whether and when body camera video should be disclosed to the public.
With no process for appealing public records denials short of filing a lawsuit, Colorado might want to look at a two-year-old system in Ohio, which lets anyone challenge a denial for a $25 filing fee. The president of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government says residents of his state “now have a fighting chance – no matter their resources or standing” when they believe records are wrongly withheld.
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.
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition sent a letter to James Holmes, via his former attorney, asking him to authorize the public defender’s office to make its expenditure information public.
Under House Bill 17-1204, a judge would have to order a juvenile be charged as an adult to trigger the public release of arrest and criminal records.
State lawmakers defeated a bill that would have made the State Public Defender’s Office subject to the Colorado Open Records Act, preferring to let the Colorado Judicial Branch write its own rules for releasing administrative records for that agency and other agencies under its control.