Tag Archives: denver sheriff

Denver Sheriff Case Study – Taser Use Against the Mentally Ill

Should the Denver Sheriff use a Taser on an individual who is inflicting harm to him/herself?

It increasingly appears the Denver Sheriff at least tolerates the practice if there is a physical violation jeopardizing the lawful order.1 See e.g. St. Germain v. Denver Department of Safety, Car. Serv. Bd. Appeal No. 24-14, available at: www.denvergov.org/portals/671/documents/hearings/st._germain_ned_24-14_decision.pdf (last accessed Dec. 4, 2014); or see the document in its entirety below.   The Denver Post is doing great research into this subject, and is finding more and more evidence that Sheriff Deputies are using Tasers more as weapon to attack, rather than defend.2 Noelle Phillips, Denver Sheriff Sargent Suspended for Stunning Mentally Ill Inmate, Denver Post, Dec. 10, 2014, available at: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_27108405/denver-sheriffs-sergeant-suspended-stunning-mentally-ill-inmate.

Judging from the Taser reports, made available through a public records request, the Denver Sheriff does not discern when an inmate is only a threat to himself, versus an inmate who is a threat to others.  Furthermore, there does not seem to be a Taser best practices policy by the agency.

Digging a little bit deeper, I am going to look at the Denver Sheriff’s policy of Taser use against individuals who are an unarmed, and are only a threat to the individual himself, when the Deputies engage with the inmate.  In other words, inmates who appear to be mentally ill from the facts presented.  This will be the first part in a series of articles written on the subject here.

North Dakota National Guard

— Photo taken by North Dakota National Guard, Flickr.

Continue reading Denver Sheriff Case Study – Taser Use Against the Mentally Ill

References   [ + ]

1. See e.g. St. Germain v. Denver Department of Safety, Car. Serv. Bd. Appeal No. 24-14, available at: www.denvergov.org/portals/671/documents/hearings/st._germain_ned_24-14_decision.pdf (last accessed Dec. 4, 2014); or see the document in its entirety below.
2. Noelle Phillips, Denver Sheriff Sargent Suspended for Stunning Mentally Ill Inmate, Denver Post, Dec. 10, 2014, available at: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_27108405/denver-sheriffs-sergeant-suspended-stunning-mentally-ill-inmate.

Denver Sheriff and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Denver Sheriff Department is not completely blind to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as it appears the agency could be with some of the abuse allegations lately.

Responding to my public records request under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, the Denver Sheriff provided me with documents related to mental health training and accommodations made in compliance with the ADA.  I made the public records request because of the troubling, to put it mildly, allegations in the press that the Denver Sheriff used their Tasers to inflict pain, some of whom are mentally ill.1 Noelle Phillips, Denver Jail’s Taser Use At Odds With Federal Guidelines, Post Finds, Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26846770/denver-jails-taser-use-at-odds-federal-guidelines?source=rss.

I have argued in a previous post on this website 2 Joe Thomas, Denver Sheriff’s Taser Use on the Mentally Ill, Colorado Common Law, http://cocommonlaw.com/2014/11/denver-sheriff-taser-mentally-ill/. and on my Arizona Common Law website 3 Joe Thomas, Police Have Affirmative Duty to Accommodate Disabilities, Arizona Common Law, http://azcommonlaw.com/2014/03/police-affirmative-duty-accommodate-disabilities/; See also Joe Thomas, The Police’s Duty to Accommodate Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Arizona Common Law, http://azcommonlaw.com/2014/02/police-duty-accommodate-americans-disabilities-act/. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act4 The Americans with Disabilities Act,  Title II Public Services, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et. seq. creates a  duty in which law enforcement must proactively make reasonable accommodations for known individuals with qualifying disabilities.5 A qualifying disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.”  The Americans with Disabilities Act, Definitions, 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A).

Provided with all the documentation related to my request (except for the course materials which would need to be printed for me at an extra charge), I think this should give a good overview of how the Denver Sheriff approaches mental health issues and disabilities in general.

Continue reading Denver Sheriff and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

References   [ + ]

1. Noelle Phillips, Denver Jail’s Taser Use At Odds With Federal Guidelines, Post Finds, Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26846770/denver-jails-taser-use-at-odds-federal-guidelines?source=rss.
2. Joe Thomas, Denver Sheriff’s Taser Use on the Mentally Ill, Colorado Common Law, http://cocommonlaw.com/2014/11/denver-sheriff-taser-mentally-ill/.
3. Joe Thomas, Police Have Affirmative Duty to Accommodate Disabilities, Arizona Common Law, http://azcommonlaw.com/2014/03/police-affirmative-duty-accommodate-disabilities/; See also Joe Thomas, The Police’s Duty to Accommodate Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Arizona Common Law, http://azcommonlaw.com/2014/02/police-duty-accommodate-americans-disabilities-act/.
4. The Americans with Disabilities Act,  Title II Public Services, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et. seq.
5. A qualifying disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.”  The Americans with Disabilities Act, Definitions, 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A).

Denver Sheriff’s Taser Use on the Mentally Ill

Law enforcement needs to treat all people within their care with fairness and reasonableness.  This includes people with disabilities.

Earlier this month, the Denver Post reported 1 Noelle Phillips, Denver Jail’s Taser Use At Odds With Federal Guidelines, Post Finds, Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26846770/denver-jails-taser-use-at-odds-federal-guidelines?source=rss allegations that the Denver Sheriff Department “often rely on their Tasers to inflict pain to force inmates, some of whom are mentally ill.” The newspaper’s findings include: “[d]eputies used their Tasers’ drive-stun mode, designed to inflict direct pain, in at least eight cases”; and  “[i]n at least six incidents, the inmate who was shocked had been experiencing a mental health episode.” 2 Id.

The Denver Post reviewed fourteen Taser cases so far this year by the Denver Sheriff Department.  In continuing coverage of the use of force by the Denver Sheriff, the Denver Post suggests, that if true, the allegations would violate federal Taser guidelines.

I am going to assert that if these allegations, if true, the conduct by the Denver Sheriff Department would violate federal law, the United States Constitution,  and international law.  At the very least these allegations, if true,  at least amount police abuse, and at most to torture.

Continue reading Denver Sheriff’s Taser Use on the Mentally Ill

References   [ + ]

1. Noelle Phillips, Denver Jail’s Taser Use At Odds With Federal Guidelines, Post Finds, Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26846770/denver-jails-taser-use-at-odds-federal-guidelines?source=rss
2.  Id.

How the Denver Sheriff Defines Use of Force

The use of force is a hot topic within the Denver Sheriff and the surrounding community currently.  Deputies claim with the increased scrutiny, at times they second-guess their decisions, putting both officers and inmates at risk.

They’re afraid a Monday- morning quarterback is going to come back and find the one rule they violated. It’s frustrating from a supervisory standpoint.

— said  Sgt. Charles Denovellis, during a rally outside the Denver County Jail Oct. 6, 2014 to the Denver Post.

It is such a hot topic that Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins wrote a formal letter telling deputies the use of force is prescribed by state law and is not some moving target.

This whole discussion makes me wonder what the use of force policy is and how it can be misconstrued.  Is it vague?  Does it really differ from other jurisdictions?  Since the Denver Department of Safety refuses to allow the Denver Sheriff to turn over copies of the Sheriff Orders and Jail Procedures then I have to go with what is available. Fortunately, the Denver Sheriff Discipline Handbook is freely available, even though the Denver Department of Safety forgets to mention it in open records requests.

Continue reading How the Denver Sheriff Defines Use of Force

Denver Sheriff Does Not Want to Share Accreditation Standards

The Denver Sheriff is really proud of the accreditations it has been awarded, really proud. On the front page of the Denver Sheriff website the accreditation are boasted about.  If that is not enough, Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins sat down with a Denver Post Editorial Writer and talked, and talked about the Department’s accreditations and how useful they are.

Because of the hype, I am interested to find out what these accreditations consist of.  How is the Denver Sheriff able to maintain these prestigious accreditations when they have faced numerous allegations of brutality and corruption by deputies?  The allegations were so severe former Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson was voluntarily demoted.  So what can the Denver Sheriff be doing so right with so much stuff going so wrong?

I made inquiries into two of the three accreditation standards that the Denver Sheriff currently holds: The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA), and The American Correctional Association (ACA).  Both agencies told me the only way I could get a copy of their policies was to purchase a year-long license for about $100. I then figured to turn to the Denver Sheriff.  In the article with the Denver Post Editorial Writer, Sheriff Diggins clearly states he is in possession of the records.  “‘These standards help anyone get better,’ Diggins said, pointing to boxes of documents for ACA accreditation on the floor of his office.”

My thought was I would file a public records request with the Denver Sheriff and get the standards directly from the Sheriff’s Office (this is the same approach I used to get the Colorado Revised Statutes).  Well it turns out the Denver Sheriff likes the brag about the fact they are accredited by three agencies, but they really don’t want to share what those accreditations entail.  The Denver Post article never once inquired into goes into the accreditations.  Kinda seems like it would be an important and newsworthy question to ask an embattled agency like the Denver Sheriff what their standards are.

So I filed my Open Records request with the Denver Department of Safety and last night I received a non-responsive, response.  “The accreditation standards requested in the email below are set by each accrediting body and are therefore records of each body.  Please direct your request to CALEA and ACA.” (See email screenshot below). The Denver Department of Safety tried to deflect my request.

Denver Sheriff Public Records Request Denial

Continue reading Denver Sheriff Does Not Want to Share Accreditation Standards

Proposed Changes at the Denver County Jail

The Denver Department of Safety announced proposed changes to the Denver Sheriff Department Disciplinary Handbook.  The public version provided by the Denver Post (which can be viewed below) provides a whole bunch of nothing.  A complete Nov. 2013 copy of the Disciplinary Handbook can be viewed at the bottom of this article for reference.

A task force looked at disciplinary problems with the Denver Sheriff, especially how deputies can use force and make it easier to fire them when they break the rules.  The task force met twenty-two times altogether and came up with thirty-two recommendations.  Releasing the policy proposals appears to be an attempt at transparency by the Denver Department of Safety. The Denver Department of Safety, is an agency of the City and County of Denver, which has, “subject to the supervision and control of the Mayor, full charge and control of the departments of sheriff, fire and police.” Denver, Colo. Municipal Code § 2.6.1.  Since the Denver Department of Safety oversees and supervises the Sheriff, the buck stops with the Department of Safety with this whole mess.

Not all of these suggestions are bad or obtuse — most of them are.  Let’s dig in and see the good and the bad.

Continue reading Proposed Changes at the Denver County Jail

Sheriff’s Reform – Open Letter to Mayor Hancock

This is an open letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock requesting more information is provided before a “top-to-bottom review” of the Denver Sheriff Department is completed.

 

Honorable Michael Hancock
Mayor City of Denver
1437 N. Bannock St., Room 350
Denver, Colorado 80202

Dear Mayor Hancock,

I am writing to urge you to delay the review of the Denver Sheriff Department, until a public copy of both the Denver Sheriff Department Orders and the Denver Jail Procedure Manual is available for free on the Denver government website, fit for public consumption.

Alleged abuses committed by the Denver Sheriff have spurred this review.  The public will not be able to judge the Denver Sheriff’s performance accurately, unless they have access to the public version of the operations and procedures.  Both the Operations and Procedures act as a guideline as the expectations for how Denver Sheriff should act in any number of given situations.  In legalese this is known as a standard of care.  Knowing what the Denver Sheriff expects of it’s own employees is essential information for an individual to accurately assess the department’s performance.

Nearly a month ago I filed an Open Records request for both Denver Sheriff Department Orders and the Denver Jail Procedure Manual with the Records Coordinator in the Denver Department of Safety.  My hope was to publicly post the orders on my website for the public to access.   I thought if I could provide official operations and procedures it would raise the level of discussion.  Unfortunately, the Denver Department of Safety estimated it would cost $750 to redact the policies to make them fit for public consumption.  Furthermore, instead of trying to work with me to figure out a cost-effective way to make these documents available during the window of public discussion, the Denver Department of Safety has fought me every step along the way, and have hid behind their lack of Open Records policies as an excuse.

Continue reading Sheriff’s Reform – Open Letter to Mayor Hancock

Denver Sheriff Hiding Open Records Policies

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the Denver Sheriff is dragging its feet and trying to charge me $750 for the Denver Sheriff and Jail Procedures.

In my initial communications of the Open Records request, I asked for the fees to be waived because the Denver Sheriff did not post a fee structure as required in Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-205 (6) (a).

A custodian may impose a fee in response to a request for the research and retrieval of public records ONLY if the custodian has, prior to the date of receiving the request, either posted on the custodian’s web site or otherwise published a written policy that specifies the applicable conditions concerning the research and retrieval of public records by the custodian, including the amount of any current fee.

My contention is the Denver Sheriff does not list any Open Records information on their website whatsoever and according to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-205 (6) (a), since there was no prior notice I should not have to pay any money for the Open Records request.

The Denver Sheriff does not list any CORA information on its website whatsoever.
The Denver Sheriff does not list any CORA information on its website whatsoever.

In the Denver Sheriff’s response, Denver Records Coordinator Mary Dulacki, told me “the Department of Safety has elected to follow recently enacted CORA policy when it comes to charges for staff time spent researching and retrieving records. That policy can be found on the denvergov.org website, for example at this link: http://www.denvergov.org/city_attorney/DenverCityAttorney/AboutUs/CORAPolicy/tabid/445357/Default.asp.”  See Mary Dulacki, Records Request – DSD Policies and procedures (sic).  In other words, Records Coordinator Mary Dulacki believes prior notice comes in the form of using a completely unrelated agencies Open Records policies that are neither stated or linked to on the Denver Sheriff’s website.

Denver Records Coordinator is not being completely honest with her explanation of the Open Records policy.  There is nothing for her to research or retrieve.  I asked for: 1.Denver Sheriff Department Orders; and
2. Denver Sheriff Department County Jail Division Procedure Manual.  If there needs to be any research into those policies then the Denver Sheriff is in more trouble than I originally thought.  Also, if they have to spend time retrieving the policies,I guess every employee of the Denver Sheriff has the policies and procedures memorized by heart.  That is very commendable, but highly unlikely.  I think both sets of policies and procedures are available in electronic format and Records Coordinator Mary Dulacki needs to decide what she wants to make public and what to keep private — that doesn’t seem to be part of the law, or what she quoted.  BUT that is the reason why she is trying to gouge me.  I have already documented that making Sheriff and Jail policies and procedures public is an emerging trend.  The Denver Sheriff isn’t exactly breaking new ground here.

Continue reading Denver Sheriff Hiding Open Records Policies

Why is the Denver Sheriff hiding their Operating Procedures?

What is the Denver Sheriff trying to hide by using their “discretion” and keeping the Denver Sheriff’s operating procedures confidential?  There must be some super awesome law enforcement techniques to keep the entire policies and procedures out of the public’s grasp.  The emerging trend among law enforcement agencies is to make these policies open to the public and available on the internet.

There are plenty of other law enforcement policy manuals available on the internet in order to be able to get a general idea of what is in each one.  In fact there are companies that write boilerplate (generic forms) for police and sheriff departments to purchase for a basis to create their own policies, so they don’t have to start from scratch.  The general policies and procedures are not a secret.  Much of it is out there and in the open.

What is a secret is why the Denver Sheriff will not disseminate any of the Sheriff’s policies and procedures.  I understand keeping some things confidential, but all of it?  Really, Denver Sheriff?  Are the totality of your policies so radically different from all of the others I have listed below that you can’t disclose any parts of the Denver Sheriff’s Operating Procedures?

Background

A lawsuit was settled for jailhouse abuses on Aug. 4, 2014 for $3.25 million.  There are no details of what happened during the abuses, or what the Sheriff’s did or did not do to amount paying a couple of million of dollars for a single incident.  An internet searched did not reveal any results for Denver Sheriff policies/procedures and the Denver County Jail polices/procedures.  I filed an Open Records request last week for both the Sheriff and Jail policies.

The Denver Sheriff completely denied my Open Records request for the Sheriff’s Operating Procedures only saying their interest to keep ALL of the procedures secret, outweighed the public’s right to know any of the procedures.

I am writing this blog post to show how ridiculous the Denver Sheriff is being by not disclosing any part of the Sheriff’s Operating Procedures.  

 

Here is an incomplete list of police and sheriff offices that post their policy and procedures online:

*I am sure there are many more law enforcement policies and procedures available online, these are the ones that I could find quickly for this blog post to illustrate my point that the Denver Sheriff is being absolutely absurd!

 

Colorado Sheriffs Departments

Boulder County Sheriff

El Paso County Sheriff Operating Procedures

Morgan County Sheriff Operating Procedures

 

Colorado Police Departments

Colorado Springs Police Department Operating Procedures (the operating procedures are temporarily down, but it provides a contact in order to get them.  Furthermore, I will provide an older copy I downloaded six months ago, at the bottom of the page.  Be aware, the operating procedures may have been updated since then).

Denver Police Department Operating Procedures

Lakewood Police Department Operating Procedures

 

Colorado – Other Law Enforcement Agencies

Colorado Department of Corrections Operating Procedures

 

Sheriff Procedures – Outside of Colorado

Arkansas County, AR., Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Bell County, TX, Sheriff Manual

Camden, NJ, Sheriff Manual Rules and Regulations

Cheseapeake County, VA, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Cheyenne County, WY, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Erie County, OH, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Lincoln County, OR, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

King County, Wash., Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Lea County, NM, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Lafayette Parish, LA., Sheriff and Jail Procedures

Monroe County, FL,  Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Pennington County, SD, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Pima County, AZ, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Polk County, FL, Sheriff Policy Manual

Sonoma County, CA., Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Spokane County, Wash, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Uintah County, UT, Sheriff Policies and Procedures

Woodbury County, IA, Sheriff Manual

 

Police Procedures – Outside of Colorado

Austin, TX, Police Policy Manual

Albuquerque, NM, Police Standard Operating Procedures

Boise, ID, Police Manual

Charlotte, NC, Police Procedures

Champaign, Ill., Police Procedures

Cincinnati, OH, Police Procedures

Chicago, Ill., Police Directives

Columbus, OH, Police Procedures

Dallas, TX, Police General Orders

Fayetteville, NC, Police General Orders

Fullerton, CA, Police Orders

Kenosha, WI,  Police Manual

Los Angeles, CA Police Procedures

Louisville, KY, Police Operating Manual

Mesa, AZ, Police Operating Procedures

Milwaukee, WI, Police Operating Procedures

Minneapolis, Minn, Police Operating Procedures

Lawrence, KS, Police Operating Procedures

Omaha, NE, Police Procedures Manual

Phoenix, AZ, Police Operating Procedures

Portland, OR., Police Procedures

San Francisco, CA, Police Procedures

San Jose, CA, Police Procedures

Seattle, Wash., Police Procedures

Tallahasse, FL, Police Procedures

Tampa, FL, Police Standard Operating Procedures

Tucson, AZ, Police Procedures

Wichita, KS., Police Procedures

Washington, D.C., Police Procedures

 

Companies to Purchase Boilerplate Law Enforcement Policies and Procedures

Lexpol – Boilerplate law enforcement polices and manuals available for purchase

OSS Law Enforcement Advisors – Order Form and Sample Manuals

 

 

 

Denver Sheriff A Public Records Mess

The Denver Sheriff responded to my Open Records request that I sent last Friday.  They outright denied my request in part and ignored part of my request.

An effective discipline system is one that is fair, rational, efficient, reasonably consistent and transparent, reflects the mission, vision and guiding principles of the Denver Sheriff Department.

— Denver Sheriff Discipline Handbook, *1 (taken from the free version online and not the $15 CD, like Ms. Dulacki indicated was the only available way of ascertaining the Discipline Handbook).

I guess a system that is “fair, rational, efficient, reasonably consistent and transparent” only applies to police discipline and not civilian discipline when it comes to the Denver County Sheriff.

The response to my Open Records request included an outright denial to my request for the Denver Sheriff Operating Procedures.  The decision was based upon a balancing test without any analysis, just conclusory statements.  The Denver Sheriff also concealed a free version of the Denver Sheriff Disciplinary Handbook while instructing me the only way to receive Denver Sheriff Disciplinary Handbook is to pay $15 for a CD.  Lastly, the Denver Sheriff outright ignored the law I stated mandating the publication policies for Open Records Requests, if a department will charge for fulfilling the request.  The Denver Sheriff linked to the Denver City Attorney’s policy in the official response.

*** I wrote a follow-up post to this where I list all of the police and sheriff procedures and polices are posted online.  Read it here.

Background

A lawsuit was settled for jailhouse abuses on Aug. 4, 2014 for $3.25 million.  There are no details of what happened during the abuses, or what the Sheriff’s did or did not do to amount paying a couple of million of dollars for a single incident.  The settlement offer comes right out of the taxpayer’s money.  Because the taxpayers are fundamentally footing the bill, I think it is in the public’s right to know the operating procedures and directives for both the Denver Sheriff and the Denver Jail.  Also, how can I see if I agree or disagree with the policies if they are not made available.  This is an infringement upon federal and state free speech protections, trampling upon the people’s right to criticize the procedures of the Denver Sheriff.

Denver Sheriff Response

The Denver Sheriff disagrees.

First, they broke my two requests into three parts.  1. The Denver Sheriff’s Department Orders.  2. The Denver Sheriff’s Department Discipline Handbook.  3. The Denver Jail Department Order.

The Denver Sheriff believes the entire Denver Sheriff’s Department orders is private.  They claimed in the letter, that disclosing the policies and procedures are discretionary and subject to a balancing test laid down by the Colorado Supreme Court in Harris v. Denver Post, 123 P.3d 1166 (Colo. 2005)The Denver Sheriff listed the five  factors used by the court (a-e on the letter below), but did not explain how the factors resulted in their conclusion.  Note to Denver Sheriff: it defeats the purpose of citing case law with factors that require balancing, if you do not give any analysis and just give a conclusion.

Conclusory statements by definition do not involve balancing, just for your information Denver Sheriff’s Office. I know you enforce the law, but you should know how to apply a balancing factor test appropriately. For example, the consideration that I may go out to dinner with my girlfriend might be: 1. money; 2. what kind of food we eat; what time we go out; 4. who we go with.  However, if I just decide I am not going because it is my choice (in my discretion) without weighing money, time, type of food, or who our company may be then I am not balancing the factors.   The police department just paid lip service to the court case they cited and did not even give me the benefit of weighing the five factors.

Denver-Sheriff-Disciplinary-Handbook
Denver-Sheriff-Disciplinary-Handbook

Ms. Dulacki told me the Denver Sheriff’s Discipline handbook can be purchased for $15 on a CD.  What she failed to tell me is that the Denver Sheriff’s disciplinary policies are available online, on the Denver Sheriff’s website for free.   I asked for a free copy to be provided to me because no Open Records pricing structure is available on the Denver Sheriff’s website (see more on no notice of the open records policy next paragraph).  I also asked for it to be provided via email if possible.  Ms. Dulacki could have emailed me the very same link I provide to you below, instead she blatantly ignored my request and tried to make me pay when it was not necessary.

Either Ms. Dulacki tried to conceal this fact from me, or she is incompetent in her job.  Her job title is the Records Coordinator.  It reflects very poorly upon her if she cannot even keep track of where the Denver Sheriff’s Discipline Handbook is, and is not.

Here is the link where you can download a copy for yourself.  Denver Sheriff Disciplinary Handbook.  See below for the full .pdf on this webpage.

 

Denver-City-Attorney---CORA
Denver-City-Attorney—CORA.  The apparent notice of CORA fee structure for the Denver Sheriff.

The Denver County Jail’s Operating Procedures are not classified like the Sheriff’s counterpart; however the Denver Sheriff said it would cost me $30 dollars an hour to go line-by-line to remove sensitive information.  I have no problem with the Denver Sheriff removing sensitive information.  I am not trying to be an absolutist in my request, some procedures need to remain classified to keep the integrity of current and future operations.   The problem I have is I was very specific in my Open Records request and noted that the Denver Sheriff did not publicize any fee structures in accordance with HB 14-1193 which modifies Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-205 (6) (a) (stating “A custodian may impose a fee in response to a request for the research and retrieval of public records ONLY if the custodian has, prior to the date of receiving the request, either posted on the custodian’s web site or otherwise published a written policy that specifies the applicable conditions concerning the research and retrieval of public records by the custodian, including the amount of any current fee”) (emphasis added).  To get around my argument, the DENVER COUNTY SHERIFF claims the fees are clearly publicized on the DENVER CITY ATTORNEY website. See Mary Dulacki, Email, “Records Request – DSD Policies and procedures,” footnote 1.  Not only is this the wrong level of government (city instead of county), it is a completely different department.  My request was for the Denver County Sheriff and Denver County Jail.  I called the Denver County Sheriff’s general information number and was transferred to Mary Dulacki.  I am still not sure if Ms. Dulacki works for the Denver Sheriff or just for Denver County in general.  Either way, there should be pricing listed on Denver Sheriff’s website, or at the very least a link to the pricing structure on the Denver County website.   Ms. Dulacki did neither.  The best she could do was to link to Denver City Attorney’s website.  Sorry, but this is insufficient notice.  The new law (which is now in effect) clearly says a custodian may publish a fee only if the custodian has prior to the request published the pricing structure.  Ms. Dulacki did not do that and tried getting around it by citing to the Denver City Attorney.  Ms. Dulacki is the contact person for  records request, there should be a page with her name on it, not the Denver City Attorney.  This is potentially a procedural due process violation, since I informed Ms. Dulacki of the new law in my request to her last week.

Takeaways:

1. How about the Denver Sheriff’s Office take 10 minutes and create their own web page for CORA policies and fee structures. I can help you update your website, and I won’t even bill you $30 an hour. Please email me if you’re interested in my help, Ms. Dulacki.

2. On a related note, Ms. Dulacki, if you need help tracking down official policies, before you start sending out charges to put things on CDs, why don’t you email me so I can run a basic internet search to see if they are available online for free.  Since keeping track of all the official records that are available online for free seems to be more than you can keep track of right now, contact me before you send out any fees.  I’ll save the taxpayers time and money.  You know what I might not even charge you that $30 research fee that you seem to be so fixated upon.  You know my email address.

Conflicting Messages

My big beef with the Denver Sheriff’s response is the seemingly conflicting message.

The Denver County Jail’s Operating Procedures have never before been made public, but Ms. Dulacki is willing to make them public by going line-by-line to make sure only public information is included.  This could be a huge undertaking.

Why is Mary Dulacki willing to make the Denver County Jail’s Procedures available for the first time, but not the Denver Sheriff’s Procedures?  What is fundamentally different about the Denver Sheriff’s Operating Procedures that the private information cannot be redacted out of it too?  This is why Ms. Dulacki’s analytical omission, by failing to apply the Harris balancing test (remember the five points, a-e) to the current situation.  If she properly analyzed the law perhaps I would have some hint as to the answer of my question.

If some sort of balancing test will be used by the court to determine if the records will be released or not, the court will have to determine if Mary Dulacki is acting arbitrarily or not with her decisions.  Or if there is some real policy concerns behind her decisions.  Since she did not explain herself to me, I probably may not know unless a court gets involved.