The refusal to release this information makes Colorado one of just 15 states that keep this type of police officer data secret, according to a nationwide reporting project, preventing the press and public from adequately monitoring the state’s oversight of wandering or second-chance officers.
A Colorado law that went into effect in 2021 sets a timetable for the public release of law enforcement body-worn camera footage of incidents “in which there is a complaint of peace officer misconduct.” But if an officer shoots and kills someone, and no one formally complains, does the footage-release provision apply?
Another court hearing, another ruling in favor of a news media coalition under Colorado’s new law governing the public release of police body-worn camera footage.
An unarmed Black man is brutally murdered by police, who are utterly indifferent to his repeated pleas for restraint. First the people in that city, then across the nation (and, eventually, across the globe) take to the streets. They demand justice. They demand accountability. And they call upon the police, not only in that city but across the nation, to reform their practices, to eliminate racial profiling and overly aggressive militaristic responses, and to become more transparent — including by publicly releasing body-worn camera recordings of police-public confrontations.
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.
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.
One positive development in the current historical moment is the growing awareness and recognition – by citizens, legislators, governors, mayors, and even police chiefs – that there can be little or no public trust, a necessary foundation of effective law enforcement, without both accountability and transparency.
The passage of an historic, comprehensive police reform bill transformed a relatively quiet 2020 Colorado legislative session for freedom-of-information issues into one of major importance.