Friday, April 12, 2019

Governor signs bill requiring disclosure of police internal affairs files

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 5:43 PM

click to enlarge The robot the CSPD used to breach the door of a resident's home in 2012. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The robot the CSPD used to breach the door of a resident's home in 2012.
Gov. Jared Polis signed into law House Bill 1119, which requires law enforcement agencies to disclose internal affairs reports after an investigation is complete, the Colorado Independent reports.

That means the public can find out which officers are accused of and punished for use of excessive force or other violations.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado Springs Police Department have routinely refused to release internal affairs files, including those involving officers involved in a May 2012 incident in which police set off an explosive device in Ronald Brown's house, which resulted in a $160,000 lawsuit settlement, and a November 2013 incident in which an officer slammed a teenager, Alexis Acker, to the floor, breaking a tooth and causing other injuries, for which the city paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit.

The only internal affairs file released locally in recent years involved Ryan Brown, who alleged he and his brother were stopped by police just because they're black. The city settled a lawsuit filed on Brown's behalf by the ACLU of Colorado for $212,000 but denied wrongdoing. The IA investigation cleared the officers involved.

The new law doesn't require the release of past internal affairs files, but rather only those that arise from incidents that occur after the new law became effective.

The law allows identifying or contact information of confidential informants, witnesses and victims to be redacted from the reports, as well as the home address, personal phone number and other personal information of the officer.

Other information is protected as well, spelled out in the bill you can find here.

Sheriff Bill Elder is opposed to the law and issued this statement:
The language in House Bill 19-1119 is too broad. The accessible records should only refer to completed internal investigations that resulted in a sustained finding and/or disciplinary action. My concern would be that defense attorneys could use not sustained or unfounded internal investigations against an officer to undermine a legitimate case. The other concern is the amount of staff time that it will take an agency to comply with the many requests now that this bill has become law.
Mayor John Suthers couldn't be reached for comment but has said the city will follow the law.

The bill became effective upon signing by the governor.

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