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 Denver Police Department for Disclosure of Investigation into Citizen’s Allegation of Racial Profiling


January 28, 2004


The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) filed suit today against the Denver Police Department (DPD) seeking 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.


According to the lawsuit, Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman withheld the records on the ground that disclosure would be “contrary to the public interest.”


The DPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau conducted the investigation in response to a , an honorably discharged Air Force veteran who had never been arrested until the incident that was the subject of his complaint. The prosecutor quickly dismissed the charges lodged by the accused officers.


More than a year after filing the racial profiling complaint, Mr. Johnson received a one-page letter from the Denver Police Department. It stated that the accusation of excessive force had not been sustained. In what may have been a cryptic reference to the charges of racial profiling, however, the letter stated, “Other charges were sustained.” The letter did not state which charges had been sustained, nor did it state whether any of the officers had been disciplined. The ACLU then wrote several letters to Denver officials on Mr. Johnson’s behalf, requesting disclosure of additional records of the investigation. Those requests were denied.

“Mr. Johnson has made serious allegations that he was the victim of racial profiling,” explained Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The Denver Police Department has told him that some unspecified allegations were sustained, but they claim it would harm the public interest to tell him even which charges were sustained and whether anything was done about it. This kind of unjustified secrecy confirms the need to revamp Denver’s discredited system of police accountability.”


The lawsuit marks the fifth time in recent years that the ACLU has filed suit after the Denver Police Department has claimed that disclosure of requested records would harm the public interest. In suits filed in 1996, 1997, and 2000, the ACLU successfully sued to obtain records connected to the DPD’s investigation of complaints that police officers mistreated citizens. Last October, the ACLU sued to force disclosure of the Memorandum of Agreement between the DPD and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Denver provided the agreement the day before a court hearing was scheduled in the case.


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.” Even after the courts have rejected Denver’s legal rationale for withholding documents and has ordered disclosure, the lawsuit states, Denver re-asserts the identical arguments as grounds for withholding similar documents when the next request comes along.


“The Denver Police Department needs to stop claiming, seemingly automatically, that leveling with the public would somehow ‘harm the public interest,’ said Steven Zansberg, of Faegre & Benson LLP, who is acting as ACLU cooperating attorney in the case. “Disclosure does not harm the public interest; it serves the public interest. As Judge Stern explained in 1998 when he ordered the DPD to disclose records similar to the ones requested in this lawsuit: ‘[D]isclosure promotes the public interest in maintaining confidence in the honesty, integrity and good faith of Denver’s Internal Affairs Bureau.’”


Today’s lawsuit, ACLU v. Whitman, was filed in Denver District Court on behalf of Terrill Johnson as well as the ACLU. In addition to Zansberg, Chris Beall of Faegre & Benson is also serving as an ACLU cooperating attorney.

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