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.
In a precedent-setting ruling, the Colorado Court of Appeals determined that Basalt town councilors violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law by convening four executive sessions to discuss legal and personnel matters without telling the public specifically what they would be talking about.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Colorado Supreme Court will wait until September to convene a public hearing on a long-awaited standard for guiding judges’ decisions to seal or suppress judicial records in criminal cases. In the meantime, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and other groups have submitted written comments on the proposal.
Some government entities in Colorado are delaying responses to public records requests because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the disruption of day-to-day transparency obligations so far doesn’t seem as severe here as in other parts of the country.
In a closed-door meeting, a Colorado judicial branch committee is expected to consider a long-awaited new rule on the suppression and sealing of criminal court records.
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.
A long-awaited proposed new rule on the sealing and suppression of criminal court records could be ready in January and a public hearing likely will follow, the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court told state lawmakers.
The killing, Rangely’s first officer-involved homicide in nearly 40 years, was a story town officials didn’t want told. It wasn’t mentioned at the town council meeting the next day. The town manager and the mayor made no public statements about the shooting, and they ignored the Herald Times’ questions in the aftermath about the job status of Kinney and the chief.
Footage from police body-worn cameras clearly fits the definition of criminal justice records in one of Colorado’s freedom-of-information laws: All materials, including recordings, “made, maintained, or kept” by criminal justice agencies. But some district attorneys are relying on more than the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act to determine whether and when body camera video should be disclosed to the public.