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.
Gov. Jared Polis
The 2021 Colorado legislative session produced a mixed bag of good and not-so-good developments for those concerned about government transparency.
A bill that lets public bodies in Colorado disclose just one finalist when choosing a new chief executive officer such as a school superintendent, a university president or a city manager will become law without the signature of Gov. Jared Polis.
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis, requesting a veto of House Bill 21-1051, which would allow state and local public bodies to disclose just one finalist for chief executive officer positions.
Ski industry officials often note that resort deaths are incredibly rare, at roughly a one-in-a-million chance of occurrence. However, we still don’t fully understand how the state’s deadliest seasons stack up against one another because the industry and the state’s resorts are not required to divulge fatality stats, and national data released annually lacks detail or is incomplete.
The RTD board’s bylaws do require that each member file a financial interest disclosure form with the district. But the agency initially denied my request for copies of those forms, citing the personnel files exemption in the Colorado Open Records Act.
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.