Actual malice. Autopsy reports. The Columbine killers’ “basement tapes.” Stapleton Development Corp. records. The governor’s cellphone bills. The meetings and records of a county retirement board. Tom Kelley waged court battles over these issues and many more as an attorney for The Denver Post, other news organizations and the Colorado Press Association, steadfastly and expertly defending the public’s right to know and the journalist’s right to report.
Rep. James Coleman
It’s unlikely we would have this important new law without research conducted by University of Denver Sturm College of Law professor Margaret Kwoka and DU law students Bridget DuPey and Christopher McMichael, each of whom received the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award.
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.
Gov. Jared Polis’ signature on House Bill 19-1119 unclogged a major blockage in the flow of public information in Colorado by establishing a statewide presumption of openness for records about the job performance of law enforcement officers. Here are some things to know about the bill, which went into effect immediately.
Major transparency legislation signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis will let journalists and the public obtain records that show how law enforcement agencies in Colorado police themselves.
A final Senate vote moved Colorado closer to joining other states that allow public access to records of completed law enforcement internal affairs investigations. HB 19-1119 is now on Gov. Jared Polis’ desk.
Steve Zansberg, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, discussed Sunshine Week and CFOIC’s latest work Tuesday with Zack Newman, investigative data producer at 9NEWS.
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.
A legislative effort to open records on police internal affairs investigations, or at least encourage their disclosure to the public, died when the Senate sponsor of the bill had it killed in committee.
An amended bill endorsed by the Colorado House no longer opens records on police internal affairs files, but essentially encourages their disclosure once an investigation is complete.