When a police officer in Colorado breaks the rules, according to Colorado law, their department is supposed to report it. In 2020, the Colorado legislature passed a law that mandates police departments report disciplinary actions, acts of police officer misconduct, and decertification into a single, state-managed database.
State lawmakers said the new transparency along with several other reforms would bring about a new era of police accountability. The database would stop officers from repeating abuses and weed out back cops.
In a 6-month long investigation into the database which became public in 2022, reporters from COLab, Rocky Mountain PBS, 9News, Colorado Public Radio, and The Sentinel newspaper in Aurora found the database failed to report the vast majority of officer misconduct, disciplinary actions or officer decertification.
POST, the state-run Police Officer Standards Training board, which maintains the database and trains police, employs one investigator. The position has been vacant for five months. Shortly after COLab’s investigation began, Colorado Attorney General Weiser’s officer deleted the entire database prior to 2022. This resulted in devastating holes in information.
One striking example of this: Colorado’s police officer misconduct database includes no documentation about any of the officers involved in the 2019 murder of Elijah McClain. Despite inciting one of the most high-profile police misconduct trials in history and already resulting in one police officer being found guilty of murder, according to the report, the database has no information about any of the officers or any criminal investigation.
KGNU’s Alexis Kenyon talked to investigative reporters Susan Greene of COlab and Andrew Fraieli, an investigative fellow with the Sentinel, who described the state’s officer misconduct database as “wildly incomplete and often flat-out inaccurate.”