Tag Archives: first amendment

The First Amendment and Coloradans Right to Know

The First Amendment encompasses the right of free speech.  But many times that speech is uninformed because Colorado in some instances does not respect an individual’s right to know.  Colorado is not the only state who does this, as I have noted, Arizona ignores the right to know at times too.

I ran into this first with the Colorado Revised Statutes when the Colorado General Assembly did not provide a free copy of the state law on the internet.  Now, I am running into it with Denver Sheriff Department Orders and the Denver Sheriff Department County Jail Division Procedure Manual.

A ‘right to know’ can seem weird.  The first time I heard the argument, I took a step back, “that is really interesting,” I thought.  The argument goes, citizens have a right to know policies, procedures, and dealings of the government. This is also referred to as the ‘right to access.’   In this article, I will refer to it as a right to know.

Nowhere in the United States or Colorado Constitution is it stated there is a right to know, but it is implied through the freedom of speech.  The protection of free speech against the government is protected by both the United States and Colorado Constitutions.

The right to know is not a foreign concept legally either.  “The right to know is the corollary of the right to speak or publish.”  Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 44  (1973) (Douglas, J., dissenting).  To extend Justice Douglas’ thought, the freedom to criticize the government via free speech is not worth much, if governmental policies and procedures are unknown.  There is a symbiotic relationship between speech and knowledge — they depend on each other, especially when criticizing the government.  It is kinda tough to criticize the government, if the government withholds information about its policies and procedures.  Go ahead, try to criticize a policy or procedure you don’t know about.  I’ll wait…. Glad you’re back.

I am going to make the argument the right to know is implied through the right of free speech.  And in the digital age, public documents should be readily available on the internet for individuals to be able to support or criticize if they so choose, as a function of the First Amendment.

Continue reading The First Amendment and Coloradans Right to Know

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

 

 

 

Colorado Revised Statutes – Private and Copyrighted

It appears the Colorado State Government and LexisNexis think they share some weird type of private ownership over the Colorado Revised Statutes (you know, the state laws).  The laws are written by and voted for by legislators elected and paid for by the people of Colorado.  Additionally, the laws are the rules that govern civil and criminal matters in the state.  The people have more than a passing interest in ownership of the state statutes.

Colorado Revised Statutes and ancillary publications thereto, as published, shall be the sole
property of the state of Colorado as owner and publisher thereof. The committee, or its designee,
may register a copyright for and in behalf of the state of Colorado in any and all original
publications and editorial work ancillary to the Colorado Revised Statutes that are prepared by
the general assembly or its staff. The committee shall use its best efforts to ensure that any federal
copyright registered pursuant to this section is appropriately maintained. Any prior actions of
the committee and the revisor in securing such federal copyright are hereby validated. (emphasis added)

— Colo. Rev. Stat. § 2-5-115 – Copyright by State (2013)

Colorado seems to employ the strip club policy of “you can look, but don’t touch” when it comes to the Colorado Revised Statutes.  You have to sign a contract of adhesion with LexisNexis to view them anywhere on the internet.  You are limited by statute how much you reprint or redistribute without violating Colorado law. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 2-5-118.  You can’t purchase the statutes from the Colorado Legislature.  You can only purchase them through a single publisher, LexisNexis for about $300 either for the digital or a hardbound version (apparently the costs are the same to make an Ebook as it is a traditional hardbound book).

In short: the state of Colorado thinks it has a copyright interest in the Colorado Revised Statutes that it can contract to LexisNexis.  I don’t think they can.

Part 1

Part 2

Today is part 3 of my journey into the Colorado Revised Statutes.

I want to place a complete copy of the Colorado Revised Statutes on this website free of charge to download, for anyone who is interested.  The problem is that I can’t find a copy, and the state of Colorado and LexisNexis both claim to have some sort of copyright interest in the public state statutes.

Today I called up the Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services (COLLS) based upon the advice I received yesterday on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.  “Any person wishing to reprint and distribute all or a substantial part of the statutes in either printed or electronic format must obtain prior permission of the Committee on Legal Services… (please see §2-5-118, C.R.S.).”  I thought, “ok, I call up and ask for permission.”

I dialed COLLS and explained that I wanted a copy of the Colorado Revised Statutes in electronic format.  I then asked if I made my inquiry to the correct department.  Maybe the Secretary of State’s website did not know what it was talking about.  Anyway, the nice lady on the other end said COLLS is the correct department, and she offered to give me the information to order the Colorado Revised Statutes from LexisNexis.  “I don’t want to purchase the statutes from LexisNexis, can’t you give them to me for a reasonable price?”  The lady on the phone paused, and replied that she couldn’t because LexisNexis is the contracted publisher of the Colorado Revised Statutes and they would have to sell it to me.  She then suggested that I could use the free version on LexisNexis’ website, the one with the forced contract.  “I’m sorry, I don’t want to sign a contract to read state law,” I replied.

While still on the phone with the nice lady from COLLS, I decided to take a different route.  “I would then like to file an open records request under the Colorado Open Records Act,” I stated.  She seemed perplexed.  “I will have to transfer you.”  She then transferred me to another lady’s voice mail.  I left my oral request with her and my phone number. ** I went into detail in the previous post about why I think the current state surrounding the distribution of the state statutes may violate the Colorado Open Records Act.

I decided I better place a formal email too.  So I wrote out my request and sent it to olls.director@state.co.us, the only email address I could find.  I placed my request for: 1. A complete current copy of the Colorado Revised Statutes; and 2. All contracts between the Colorado Legislature and LexisNexis.  I really want to see what the state voluntarily gave up in the contract.

In the meantime, I called down to LexisNexis.  I thought since they have them on their website for free, maybe they would have it in a downloadable format.  I talked to a sales representative in their publishing department (like I was instructed to do by the nice lady at COLLS) and I was told that it was only available for purchase — other than the free version where you had to sign your life away and couldn’t download.  For a reasonable price of $298 (please note the attempt at sarcasm), I could own the Colorado Revised Statues in Ebook format.  However, if I chose to purchase it from LexisNexis I still couldn’t do what I wanted with it.  It is unclear if the book comes with pre-installed Digital Rights Management tools (commonly referred to as DRM) that place limitations on the ebook.  Such limitations can be, who it is shared with, how many pages are printed, and what can be copied.  See LexisNexis DRM explanation.

Colorado Revised Statutes Ebook

Colorado Revised Statutes Ebook

Remember from my blog post yesterday noted that the Colorado Legislature set the bar for what they needed to do to provide statutes for the public.  “The state acknowledges its obligation to provide official sets of statutes that are reasonably priced, accurate, and easy to use.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 2-5-105.  Putting the misapplied copyright law aside, if the state of Colorado continues to make the argument that LexisNexis is the only place where one can purchase the state statutes, are they implying that $300 for an Ebook that the tax payers subsidize is reasonable?  I can not see how the Colorado Legislature is not breaking their own statutes that they created, by allowing LexisNexis to gouge purchasers because they are the sole distributor.  Does the Colorado Legislature need money that bad that they have to charge $300 for state statutes?  I mean, if things are really that bad maybe we can take up a collection.   I am not sure how much money the Colorado Legislature is making off the sales of the state statutes from LexisNexis, but maybe they can create a Kickstarter drive or something to offset the losses.  On a side note, filing an open records request in the future to find how much profit the Colorado Legislature made each year off the sales of the Colorado Revised Statutes from LexisNexis is not a bad idea.

The cavalier behavior of the Colorado Legislature on this subject is really disturbing.  It really does appear the Colorado Legislature thinks it has a private property interest in the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Colorado Revised Statutes are made available for public use by the Committee on Legal Services of the Colorado General Assembly through a contractual agreement with the LexisNexis Group.  Any person wishing to reprint and distribute all or a substantial part of the statutes in either printed or electronic format must obtain prior permission of the Committee on Legal Services; permission is not required to reprint fewer than 200 sections of C.R.S. (please see § 2-5-118, C.R.S.).

— A .pdf posted on Colorado.gov. A screen grab of the document is below.

Colorado Revised Statutes contract LexisNexis
Colorado Revised Statutes contract LexisNexis

 

Here is the text of my Open Records request.

 

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to Colorado Open Records Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-201 et. seq., I place a request for records to be used for non-commercial purposes that includes my own academic research, and additionally I will make the documents freely available on my website http://cocommonlaw.com:

1. Please provide a complete and current copy of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

2. Please provide a complete copies of any and all contracts the Colorado Legislature has entered into with LexisNexis

I will pay any reasonable fees up to $25 for the documents to be placed on electronic media.  If there are charges associated with my request, please inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I request your response within three (3) business days, as per Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-203(3)(b). If you are unable to complete the request within that time, please contact me with your progress and expected completion date.

As an aside, I left a voice mail with Jennifer XXX (I believe that is her name from her voice mail) and left her a voice mail message asking to make an open records request.  The person who transferred to me on the telephone, was unclear who the correct person was to submit the request.  Please let this email message serve as a formal request for Open Records.