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. 

Colorado Springs Police Drew Weapons, Used Excessive Force against African American Man Who Misplaced his Car Keys

Matthew Talley was held at gunpoint, handcuffed, searched, and detained, yet CSPD has no written record of the incident

7/14/2015 296765_10150314708575849_1237261336_n

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado is calling for an internal affairs investigation into the conduct of Colorado Springs police officers who drew their guns, searched, handcuffed, and detained Matthew Talley, a young African American man who was attempting to “jimmy” the ignition of his car on a busy downtown street in broad daylight after he had misplaced his keys.

Officers had no reason to believe Talley was armed or dangerous, yet they approached him with guns drawn and pointed at him, forced him to the ground, searched him, and kept him in handcuffs for more than 20 minutes, long after they could see that he was unarmed, polite, cooperative, and compliant, according to a letter sent by the ACLU this morning to the CSPD Internal Affairs Unit.  None of the officers filed any written report of the incident.

“Colorado Springs police must stop relying on force and weapons as a first resort when dealing with young men of color,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Police had grounds to investigate a potential crime, but their handling of Matthew Talley from the start, just as it was with Ryan and Benjamin Brown, was disproportionate, heavy-handed, and completely over-the -top.”

According to the ACLU letter, the lack of written reports of the incident is itself a reason for concern about police accountability.

“When officers apply force or when they search a citizen, they need to document the facts that they believe justify their actions,” Silverstein said.  “Supervisors need to review those reports to assure that officers are using force and conducting searches in accord with the law and police policies.  If there are no reports, supervisors have nothing to review, and they cannot know whether officers are carrying out their duties in compliance with law and policy.”

On May 6, Talley was leaving the courthouse after resolving a traffic matter when he realized that he had misplaced the keys to his car, which he was in the process of buying from his employer.  After a locksmith helped him open the vehicle, Talley tried to “jimmy” the ignition to get it to start.  A nearby observer called 911 to report a possible car theft.  The caller said that the man he saw did not appear to be armed and that no one was in danger.  He also told the operator that, for all he knew, the car belonged to the individual who was trying to start it.

In what the ACLU identifies as a “remarkable show of force given the circumstances,” at least three squad cars and multiple officers responded to the call.  With guns drawn and pointed at Talley, they ordered him out of his car, pulled him to the ground, handcuffed him and searched him.  Despite finding no weapons and despite Talley being fully cooperative, officers kept him in handcuffs for more than twenty minutes while they questioned him about the car.

Eventually, the officers correctly concluded that Talley was in lawful possession of the car and un-cuffed him. When he returned to the car, he saw that officers had rummaged through his backpack, which he had not given permission to search.

“I understand the officers’ need to investigate the situation, but it was wrong that they pointed their guns at me, pulled me out of my car, searched me and held me in handcuffs while they interrogated me,” said Talley.  “I was polite.  I was cooperative.  I was no threat to anyone, but the officers treated me as if I was, and I have to believe that was because of the color of my skin.”

In the letter to CSPD, the ACLU of Colorado noted similarities between the officers’ treatment of Talley and the traffic stop of Ryan and Benjamin Brown, two African American men who were pulled over, handcuffed, searched, and detained at gun point and taser point by Colorado Springs police over a cracked windshield.

CSPD sent a brief boilerplate letter last month to Ryan Brown, whose recording of the traffic stop has been viewed more than 150,000 times on YouTube, informing him that the Department’s investigation into the incident had found the officers’ conduct to be “justified, legal, and proper.”  The Department subsequently denied an ACLU request for records related to the internal affairs investigation, claiming that disclosure would “not be in the public interest.”


Read the letter sent this morning from the ACLU of Colorado to CSPD Internal Affairs:

ACLU Questions Exoneration of Colorado Springs Officers, Demands Internal Affairs Records Related to Racially-Biased Traffic Stop:

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