American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado v. Whitman

Criminal Justice | Government Transparency
Case No. 04-CV-700, Denver District Court; 05CA379, Colorado Court of Appeals
ACLU Case No. 2003-18


This lawsuit against Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman seeks disclosure of the records of an internal investigation into allegations that Denver police officers engaged in racial profiling, harassment, and used excessive force in an encounter with an African American resident of Denver in April 2002. The ACLU's complaint challenges what it characterizes as a longstanding Denver Police Department policy of resisting disclosure of information about how it investigates allegations of police misconduct "unless and until an action is filed in court." In suits filed in 1996, 1997, and 2000, the ACLU successfully sued to obtain similar records connected to the DPD's investigation of complaints that police officers mistreated citizens.

On March 30, 2004, the district court ordered Chief Whitman to disclose the requested records. The ACLU then asked to file a Second Amended Complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that would limit Chief Whitman's ability to withhold similar documents in the future. The ACLU asked for a judicial declaration that police officers do not have a right of constitutionally –protected right of privacy in documents that reflect their on-the-job activities as police officers. The district court denied leave to amend, stating that the applicable legal test requires case-by-case evaluation by the courts. The ACLU appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling.


Christopher P. Beall
Mark Silverstein , ACLU of Colorado Legal Director
Steven D. Zansberg

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