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.
The Denver Post
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.
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.
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.
A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature would significantly expand our knowledge about who is incarcerated in county jails throughout the state, also providing the public and policymakers with a statewide picture.
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.
A bill to open records on completed police internal affairs investigations cleared its first legislative hurdle, passing the House Judiciary Committee on a 7-4 vote.
Reporters have been more likely to get a no-such-records-exist response since the Colorado legislature in 2016 adopted a simplified and expedited process for sealing the criminal records of defendants who are acquitted or have completed a diversion agreement or a deferred sentence, or their cases are dismissed.
A brief filed by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and several news and journalism organizations asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a First Amendment records case, deemed “vital to Colorado journalism,” that was brought by The Colorado Independent.
Colorado court officials, still working to address case suppression issues raised by recent stories in The Denver Post, were briefed about another records-access problem affecting a nonprofit’s ability to provide legal services to low-income Coloradans.