Colorado Rights Blog


  • 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. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

Police Accountability Mayoral Candidates Forum

Denver’s next mayor will face many challenges. Chief among them is restoring accountability to the city’s law enforcement agencies. He or she must work to rebuild the public’s trust and change the culture of a clearly troubled institution. On April 7th, an expert panel of criminal justice experts asked the candidates to explain their plans for reform.

Denver officials have decided not to discipline any of the five Denver Sheriff deputies involved in the killing of Marvin Booker in the holding room of the Denver Jail on July 9, 2010. Watch the survelliance camera video of his restraint, including deputies kneeling on his back, applying the carotid artery "sleeper" hold and Tasing right here:













Read the candidates' answers to the lightning round Yes/No questions here.

From 2004-2010, Denver taxpayers have spent nearly $6.2 million settling lawsuits involving Denver Police officers- nearly all of which were payouts in response to allegations of excessive force. Over the first half of last year, DPD had 17 complaints of excessive force filed against it, ranking it WORST in the nation on a complaint per officer basis.

Join the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild as we ask Denver Mayoral candidates how they plan to solve the law enforcement crisis and restore city resident's trust in their Police and Sheriff's Departments, in light of the numerous documented incidents of profiling and excessive force.

Alexander Landau was severely beaten upon asking officers if they had a warrant to search the trunk of his car. The initial Internal Affairs investigation found the officers' actions to be "within the policies of the Denver Police Department."

Michael DeHerrera was beaten by Denver Police Department officers for calling his father, a Pueblo County Sheriff, to tell him that police were at that moment assaulting Michael's friend. The city's Manger of Safety Ron Perea resigned following the public outcry over the video of the incident.

The Panelists:
Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director
Mark is a 1989 graduate of the Illinois College of Law. He served for a year as law clerk to Judge James Moran of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and another year as law clerk for Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1991, he began working as a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California in Los Angeles. Since 1996, he has worked as Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado, where he oversees the ACLU’s litigation in a wide variety of cases raising issues of civil liberties and constitutional rights. These include numerous cases challenging police practices and policies, many of which involve Denver law enforcement agenices.

Jessica West, Visiting Assistant Professor, Denver University Sturm College of Law
Prior to entering teaching, Professor West was a practicing attorney for more than fifteen years, successfully representing clients in numerous high-profile cases, including death penalty cases. West has lectured and written on many issues such as criminal defense representation standards, death penalty procedures, and DNA evidence. Admitted to the bars of Colorado, Oregon, the Tenth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court , West is also a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Gay and Lesbian Bar Association and the Colorado chapter of the American Constitution Society. West is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Connecticut School of Law, where she received an American Jurisprudence Award.

Joseph Sandoval, Metropolitan State College of Denver, Professor of Criminal Justice & Criminology
A former patrol officer and detective with the Arvada Police Department, Professor Sandoval began his teaching career in at Metropolitan State College in 1973. During his teaching career at the College, he has earned a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Denver College of Law. During this time he practiced law for over 20 years before taking inactive status.

Lisa M. Calderón, Director, Community Reentry Project
Lisa M. Calderón works with formerly incarcerated persons for their successful transition back into the community. She has served as adjunct faculty at Colorado colleges in the areas of Criminal Justice, Sociology, Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. She received her Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from the University of Denver, and law degree from University of Colorado at Boulder. As a former legal director of a battered women’s program, Lisa is qualified as an expert witness on issues of domestic violence and victim advocacy. As an active community member, Lisa is involved with several community-based initiatives including INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence in order to create more opportunities for low-income women, youth of color, and formerly incarcerated persons. She is a founding organizer of the Fix Broken Policing campaign, a grassroots initiative to challenge aggressive policing tactics and racial profiling. She is a commissioner on the Denver Crime Prevention and Control Commission and was appointed to the State Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Council.

To RSVP, or for more information, email Erik Maulbetsch or call 303.777.5482 x100.

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