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 Sues Colorado Springs Police, Charges Racial Profiling and Biased Policing

May 15, 2020

DENVER – In a lawsuit filed in federal court today, ACLU of Colorado charged that three Colorado Springs police officers, with their employer’s blessing, engaged in racial profiling and biased policing when they targeted Corey Barnes, a Black resident of the Springs, and detained him without cause, handcuffed him without justification and searched him illegally.

“The color of a person’s skin does not provide reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “The police had no grounds to detain, handcuff and search Mr. Barnes simply because he’s Black.”

The ACLU’s complaint recounts that on May 15, 2018, numerous officers arrived at a multi-building apartment complex, where they searched for a juvenile suspect. Police communications identified that suspect as a Black male, fifteen years old, with a long afro haircut, wearing a zippered hoodie, who had ducked into a specific apartment in a specific building of the complex. Despite having heard that description of the suspect, the officers unjustifiably detained, handcuffed and searched Mr. Barnes. They carried out this unjustified intrusion even though Mr. Barnes was 29 years old, not fifteen; he had very short hair, not a long afro; he was wearing a T-shirt, not a zippered hoodie; and he was outside, in the parking lot, not inside the building. The lawsuit concludes that the officers “stopped and handcuffed Mr. Barnes only because he was walking while Black.”

“Even after a fellow officer advised that Mr. Barnes was not the suspect, the officers failed to release him,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Arielle Herzberg. “Instead, they kept him handcuffed, searched his pockets and wallet, and called in a warrants check before releasing him. Then, they wrote deliberately misleading reports claiming that they released him when they learned he was not the suspect.”

The lawsuit asserts that the violations of Mr. Barnes’ constitutional rights are part of a longstanding pattern of racially biased policing that has plagued the Black community in Colorado Springs for years. In addition to citing a string of particular incidents, lawsuits, and settlements, the ACLU lawsuit presents statistics showing that Colorado Springs police have a history of racially disparate traffic stops, arrests and uses of force. The lawsuit further asserts that Colorado Springs fails to adequately investigate and impose discipline when citizens allege misconduct, including racially biased policing.

While the incident may appear to involve a minimal invasion into Mr. Barnes’ life, the real impact of this case, and many others, is the emotionally damaging story of racial profiling and humiliation that Black individuals face on a daily basis in Colorado Springs.

“Being stopped in Colorado Springs for being Black is not uncommon,” Mr. Barnes said. “My case is not unique. This needs to stop happening to Black men.”

Today’s lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Denver, charges violations of the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable detentions, handcuffing, and searches, as well as the Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits racial discrimination. Defendants are the City of Colorado Springs and officers Carlotta Rivera, Katelyn Burke, and William Watson.


The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.


Return to News