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 refusal to disclose investigation of alleged racial profiling incident

Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director, 303-777-5482 x114
Steven Zansberg, ACLU Cooperating Attorney, 303-376-2409

April 14, 2010

ACLU lawyers filed suit today against the Denver Police Department (DPD), asserting that it violated Colorado’s open records laws when it refused to disclose any documents from the file of its investigation of two African-American citizens’ complaints of racial profiling arising from a traffic stop on February 13, 2009.

The ACLU’s clients, Ashford Wortham and Cornelius Campbell, complained to the DPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) that they were stopped for no reason, searched without cause, taunted with racial epithets and other verbal abuse, and finally released after Mr. Wortham received a groundless citation for three minor traffic charges.

Although the DPD concluded that the racial profiling complaint was “not substantiated,” a Denver County Court judge who heard testimony about the incident reached the opposite conclusion.  After a bench trial in which Mr. Campbell rebutted the testimony of Sergeant Perry Speelman, the ranking officer at the traffic stop, the court dismissed the traffic charges.  Judge Aileen Ortiz-White concluded that the “Police conduct was extreme, profane and racially motivated.”  The Court further explained that Wortham and Campbell were “unlawfully detained for an unreasonable time and without reasonable suspicion.”

When Wortham and Campbell then made a written request for the IAB investigation file, they were turned down on the ground that disclosure would be “contrary to the public interest.”  According to Mary Dulacki, Records Coordinator for the Department of Safety, when IAB concludes that an accusation of police misconduct is not substantiated, the officers’ right of privacy trumps the public’s right to know.

“Our clients, as well as Denver taxpayers, have a legitimate interest in knowing whether the Denver Police Department took seriously the accusation of racial profiling,” said Steve Zansberg, of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, L.L.P., who, along with his colleagues Chris Beall and Adam Platt, is litigating the case as an ACLU cooperating attorney.  “The public’s right to know is paramount, and the right of privacy does not prevent disclosure about what police officers do while they are on the job, in uniform, conducting traffic stops and issuing tickets.”

“The public interest in disclosure is especially strong in this case,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director, “because when Mr. Wortham represented himself in Denver County Court, the judge heard the testimony, threw out the traffic charges, and concluded that the police actions were ‘extreme, profane, and racially motivated.’  She further concluded that our clients were ‘unlawfully detained’ and held ‘without reasonable suspicion.’ Such extraordinary judicial findings cry out for further public explanation and disclosure.”

Silverstein noted that today’s suit marks the sixth time in recent years that the ACLU of Colorado has sued the Denver Police Department for refusing to disclose information about an investigation of alleged police misconduct.  Each time, the lawsuit prompted Denver to release the files.  “When it comes to violating the open records laws, the Denver Police Department is a habitual offender,” Silverstein said.  “The legislature should add a three-strikes provision to the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act.”

Wortham and Campbell’s case resembles one filed in 2004 on behalf of Terrill Johnson, an African American Denver resident who had also filed a complaint with the DPD alleging that he was the victim of racial profiling.  When the DPD refused to disclose any information about its investigation, the ACLU successfully sued on Johnson’s behalf for release of the file, which identified officer Perry Speelman—before his promotion to sergeant—as one of the officers involved.  One of the documents released at that time showed that Speelman had already been the subject of 17 internal affairs investigations.   When Johnson subsequently filed a civil rights lawsuit seeking damages for the incident, Speelman was named as a defendant.  Denver settled that lawsuit for $75,000.

The court’s written order states as follows:

No PC [Probable Cause] for stop.  Charges not proved BRD [Beyond Reasonable Doubt].  Police conduct was extreme, profane, and racially motivated.  Def and passenger were unlawfully detained for unreasonable time and without reasonable suspicion.  Officer’s credibility was seriously questioned based on his testimony about the location of the stop and details of the stop.

Read more about this case on its docket page.

About the ACLU of Colorado
The ACLU is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the principles of the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy and public education.  The ACLU Foundation of Colorado works to protect the rights of all Coloradans.

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