But a year after House Bill 21-1250 was signed into law, reporters still can’t tune into Denver and Aurora police radio transmissions like they did before both agencies blocked public access — Denver in 2019 and Aurora three years earlier. Although each department has a written policy on radio access, neither has reached an agreement with any Denver metro news organizations.
police radio encryption
The 2021 Colorado legislative session produced a mixed bag of good and not-so-good developments for those concerned about government transparency.
One change will impact the release of body-worn and dashboard camera footage, and another might help mitigate the loss of public information caused by the encryption of police radio transmissions. Two additional provisions address public access to records of completed police internal affairs investigations and lists of officers who have credibility issues.
State representatives inserted a provision addressing police radio encryption into a law-enforcement accountability measure that builds on the major police reform bill passed in 2020.
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.
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.
For the third consecutive year, Colorado lawmakers have rejected proposed legislation to address the trend among law enforcement agencies to fully encrypt their radio traffic.
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.
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.
The death of a House bill likely means the continuation of a trend among Colorado law enforcement agencies to encrypt all of their radio traffic.