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. 

Citing In-Custody Deaths, ACLU Calls for Policy Change to Limit Use of Tasers

Citing an increasing number of in-custody deaths associated with law enforcement use of electroshock weapons, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) called on Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman today to tighten the Department's use-of-force policy and restrict officers' use of the taser to situations that present a true threat to human life or safety.

"Tasers are often promoted to the public on the ground that they can save lives in situations where police would otherwise use deadly force," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director, in a letter sent to Chief Whitman. "There is no question that tasers are less lethal than a revolver. But the public is much less aware that police departments around the country, including the Denver Police Department, are authorizing officers to use tasers in situations where no one would claim that lethal force is even arguably justified."

According to the letter, more and more persons are dying in custody shortly after law enforcement officers have subdued them with tasers or stun guns. The ACLU cited three deaths in 2001; ten in 2002; sixteen in 2003; and four already this year. Two of these deaths occurred in Colorado; in Pueblo in 2002 and Glendale last fall. In more than ninety per cent of these in-custody deaths, the ACLU's letter said, "the deceased was not brandishing any weapon, nor were law enforcement officers using the taser as an alternative to firearms."

According to the ACLU's letter, "these in-custody deaths raise serious questions about whether tasers, contrary to their proponents' claims, may be lethal in certain situations. They also raises questions about the propriety of policies that authorize officers to use tasers when there is no serious threat of substantial physical harm."

The ACLU urged the Chief of Police "to take a close look at whether the claims made for the taser's safety are sufficiently trustworthy to justify the Denver Police Department's use of force policy, which permits officers to use the weapon on suspects who present no threat to life or limb."

The ACLU contends that the proponents of tasers have not adequately addressed the evidence that electroshock devices may be dangerous or even lethal to persons in a severely agitated or psychotic state, persons who have ingested high levels of certain street drugs, and individuals with heart disease. According to the ACLU, the deceased fits one or more of those vulnerable categories in at least two-thirds of the recent in-custody deaths involving electroshock weapsons.

The letter also asserts that advocates of tasers overstate the claims for their safety and inappropriately understate or dismiss the role that tasers may have played in in-custody deaths. "The proponents of tasers have repeatedly said that tasers have never caused a death," Silverstein said. "What they mean, apparently, is that so far no medical examiner has listed the taser as the sole cause of death. But several medical examiners have said that an electroshock weapon contributed to a fatality. That could easily be enough for legal liability, and that is certainly enough reason to reexamine and redraft the current policy."

Silverstein said that the ACLU had also asked the Public Safety Review Commission and the Mayor's Task Force on Police to consider whether the use of tasers should be restricted "to situations where they truly serve as an alternative to the use of firearms." 

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