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Denver Police Department's Blanket Denial of Investigative Records Ruled Abuse of Discretion

Colorado state resident Stephen Nash sought review of a denial of requested Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) files by the Denver Police Department (DPD). The files involved police misconduct during the improper monitoring of Nash's activities, which resulted in undisclosed disciplinary measures and policy changes within the DPD. Disclosure of the files was ordered with appropriate redactions after an in camera inspection.

Stephen Nash and his wife, Vicki, are members of the activist group "Cop Watch." Nash filed a complaint in 2002 due to the DPD’s improper monitoring of the group’s legal activities. DPD Chief Gerald Whitman notified Nash in 2004 that a "preponderance of evidence" supported the complaint, but did not specify any officers involved, the exact violations, or the changes in policy that were made to rectify the problem.

Nash's attorney, Mark Silverstein, requested the investigative records and two other records under the Criminal Justice Records Act (CJRA) and Colorado Open Records Act. Denver City Attorney Richard Stubbs denied the request in 2005, claiming that such disclosure would be against public interest for fear of future damage to investigative cooperation; he asserted deliberative process and attorney-client privileges.

On review, the Denver County District Court ruled that the deliberative process privilege did not apply to post-decisional documents and that the City had failed to prove an exception. The court held that DPD's blanket denial of all IAB files, as well as the determination that such disclosure was contrary to public interest, was an abuse of discretion under the CJRA. The court further stated that the denial was arbitrary and capricious, and awarded Nash attorney's fees. See: Nash v. Whitman, Denver County District Court, Case No. 05CV4500 (Dec. 7, 2005).

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Related legal case

Nash v. Whitman