A new Colorado law requires the public disclosure of police body-worn camera footage of incidents “in which there is a complaint of peace officer misconduct.” But what do journalists do when they want to request video, but no one has filed an official complaint?
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.
In a test of Colorado’s new law governing the public release of certain police body-worn and dashboard camera footage, a Weld County District Court judge ordered the immediate disclosure of video from a June incident in which a Greeley officer allegedly used a chokehold during an arrest.
A coalition of news organizations asked a Weld County District Court judge to modify or rescind his order barring the public release of body-worn and dashboard camera footage from a June incident in which a Greeley police officer allegedly used a chokehold during an arrest.
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.
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.
All we want for Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa (besides world peace, an end to the pandemic and less partisan rancor) are better open-government laws for Coloradans.
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.