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.
Rep. James Coleman
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.
A bill to require public disclosure of police internal affairs records cleared its first legislative hurdle on a 7-4 vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
Colorado would join a dozen other states that require public disclosure of internal records on police misconduct under legislation introduced in the House.
New research makes a case for reforming Colorado’s criminal justice records statute to require the public release of files on completed internal affairs investigations concerning law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing.