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. 

Aurora Pays 75K to Settle Two ACLU Police Misconduct Lawsuits

DENVER – The City of Aurora has agreed to pay $75,000 to ACLU of Colorado clients Omar Hassan and Dwight Crews, two black men who sued over separate incidents of mistreatment by the Aurora Police Department.

According to an ACLU lawsuit filed in September 2017, two Aurora police officers ordered Hassan to leave a coffee shop after telling him, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.”  He will receive $40,000.

Crews, a disabled 60-year-old man, was removed from his home without a warrant in the middle of the night, restrained, thrown to the ground, and unlawfully arrested by Aurora police. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on his behalf in November 2017. He will receive $35,000.

“These settlements add to a multi-year trend of taxpayers footing the bill, in case after case, as Aurora police officers are repeatedly sued for violating the constitutional rights of people of color,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “How many lawsuits will it take?  The Aurora Police Department needs to do some serious self-examination regarding how its officers respond to persons of color, and the city must establish an independent system of accountability.  The alternative is a further decline in community trust, more incidents, and more lawsuits.”

See below for a map of Aurora police incidents involving people of color. 

On March 16, 2016, Omar Hassan entered a Caribou Coffee in Aurora and approached the counter to purchase a muffin. He had just finished a night shift at work and was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants, and work boots. Two Aurora police officers followed Hassan to a table, stood directly over him with their hands on their guns, and commanded him to leave.  When Hassan asked why, one of the officers responded, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.”

According to the ACLU lawsuit, the officers’ targeting of Hassan based on his dress, followed by their choice of words in removing him from a place of public accommodation, made his experience “unique in its reflection of both historical and modern-day racism.”

On November 14, 2015, Aurora Police visited Dwight Crews’ home at 2 a.m., about two hours after he intervened to stop his stepdaughter from being physically abused by her husband.  The officers, who had no warrant, banged loudly on his door, flashed lights in his windows, and threatened to break into the home if he did not come out.

When Crews came to the door, the officers ordered him to step out onto his porch.  As they started to pat him down, he noticed his cat, pointed, and said, “My cat’s outside!”  One of the officers threw Crews to the ground, slamming his body on top of jagged loose rocks.  Crews, whose spine was damaged from a previous car accident, sustained multiple, lasting injuries.

Last July, Aurora paid $110,000 to settle claims of ACLU client Darsean Kelley, a young black man who was tased in the back as he said, “I know my rights.”

“In too many cases, we hear of persons of color being mistreated by the law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect them,” Silverstein said. “The ACLU will continue pushing city officials and police departments to address this problem in Aurora, in Colorado, and throughout the country.”


ACLU Sues Aurora Police for Ousting Black Man in Hoodie from Coffee Shop

ACLU Lawsuit: Aurora Police Used Excessive Force during Unlawful Arrest of Disabled 60-Year-Old Black Man

Aurora Pays $110K for Unlawful Detention and Tasing of Darsean Kelley


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.

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