Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

ACLU and Denver Officials Agree to Resolve Lawsuit over Denver Police Spy Files

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) announced a settlement today of its landmark lawsuit challenging the Denver Police Department’s practice of monitoring and recording the peaceful protest activities of Denver-area residents and keeping criminal intelligence files on the expressive activities of law-abiding advocacy groups, some of which were falsely labeled as “criminal extremist.”

“Denver has agreed to put an end to its decades-long practice of monitoring and keeping files on peaceful critics of government policy who have no connection to criminal activity,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The end of this political spying enhances the professionalism of the police department and is a victory for the First Amendment and for the civil liberties of all people in Denver.

“This agreement is particularly significant at this time,” Silverstein continued, “when the White House falsely claims that Americans must sacrifice their civil liberties if they are going to be safe from terrorism. As this agreement demonstrates, effective law enforcement does not require giving up our Constitutional rights.”

“Denver has committed itself to a wholesale reform of the police department’s intelligence unit,” said Lino Lipinsky, of McKenna Long & Aldridge, who litigated the Spy Files case as an ACLU volunteer cooperating attorney. “Under this agreement, the Denver police will focus on catching criminals instead of tracking how individuals choose to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The litigation over the Denver “Spy Files,” which sought changes in policies and practices rather than monetary damages, began shortly after the ACLU revealed the existence of the files in March, 2002.

The settlement agreement provides that the Denver Police Department (DPD) will, for the first time, adopt an official policy on intelligence-gathering that will be distributed to all officers. The new policy:

  • Forbids the intelligence unit from collecting or maintaining information about how individuals exercise their First Amendment rights, unless that information is directly relevant to criminal activity and there are specific facts indicating that the individual is involved in that criminal activity.
  • Applies to all forms of collecting intelligence information, including photographing and videotaping demonstrators, recording license plate numbers at peaceful rallies, intercepting email, and using undercover officers to infiltrate organizations that organize peaceful protests.
  • Limits the intelligence unit to collecting information about serious criminal activity and expressly forbids collecting information on individuals who are suspected of nothing more than nonviolent civil disobedience that amounts only to a misdemeanor offense.
  • Establishes limits and strict procedures governing the dissemination of information from the criminal intelligence files.
  • Specifies internal safeguards, such as training, supervisory review, and thorough documentation of an audit trail.
  • Requires quarterly and then annual audits by an independent agency whose reports will be submitted to the Public Safety Review Commission.

In addition, the settlement agreement also provides that Denver will:

  • Purge all of the existing intelligence files that do not meet the rigorous criteria of the new policy.
  • Permit individuals and organizations, for a 90-day period, another opportunity to obtain copies of their purged intelligence files. The DPD had stopped honoring such requests at the end of January.
  • Provide letters from the Chief of Police to the subjects of all purged intelligence files, stating that the police have no information that justifies maintaining a criminal intelligence file.
  • Provide notice of the purge to other law enforcement agencies that may have received information from Denver’s intelligence files.
  • Submit to quarterly audits for the first year and subsequent annual audits, with the auditor initially selected, for the first two years, jointly by the Plaintiffs and the Mayor;
  • Pay the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and costs, in an amount to be determined by the Court.

The agreement calls for the lawsuit to be “administratively closed” for 12 months before being formally dismissed. During that period, the ACLU could move to re-open the lawsuit if the audits show that the DPD is violating the new intelligence policy.

Attorneys representing both sides of the lawsuit appeared in open court before Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer this morning to confirm the outlines of the agreement for the record. Before taking effect, however, the settlement must be submitted to United States District Court Judge Edward Nottingham for approval.

According to the ACLU, one unresolved issue is what will happen to the Spy Files after they are purged from the Denver Police Department’s files. “The Colorado Historical Society is interested in keeping the Spy Files as an historical record, with safeguards to protect individual privacy,” Silverstein said. “When the City of Chicago resolved a similar lawsuit in the 1980s, the Chicago Historical Society took custody of the famous Red Squad files. But Denver officials want to destroy the Spy Files after one year, thus preventing the public from ever finding out the full extent of the Denver Police Department’s political spying.”

Plaintiffs participating in the ACLU’s lawsuit are Sister Antonia Anthony, Vicki Nash, Stephen Nash, and three organizations: the American Friends Service Committee, Chiapas Coalition, and End The Politics of Cruelty.

Settlement Agreement, announced April 17, 2003 [PDF]
Settlement Agreement, Exhibit 1, new DPD Intelligence Policy [PDF] 

Return to News