ACLU Sues Denver Over Jail Manual

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has filed a lawsuit against Denver and the city’s Sheriff’s Department seeking information about how arrestees will be processed during the Democratic National Convention in August.According to a statement from the ACLU, the organization recently filed an open records request seeking a department procedure manual for Denver’s downtown jail, where arrestees are first taken to be processed and fingerprinted before being released or sent to a larger jail located on the edge of Denver County.

The possibility of mass arrests at the convention have raised concerns about where individuals will be detained and for how long.

The ACLU claims that the city has refused to hand over the manual, saying that it would be contrary to the “public interest,” prompting the lawsuit to obtain the policy book.

Such responses to open records requests are nothing new for Denver. In April, Colorado Confidential filed an open records request seeking details about what equipment police said they were purchasing for the convention. The Denver Police Department denied the request, maintaining that the information was not in the “public interest.”

“The Denver Police Department has a history of over reliance on the ‘contrary to the public interest’ language,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the state chapter of the ACLU, in a previous interview, noting that the state ACLU has successfully sued Denver five times regarding the open records response. “It’s overused. It’s used in situations where it’s not legitimate.”

In a recent interview with the Denver Sheriff’s Department’s first female division chief, Marie Kielar, who is managing detention plans for the convention, it was revealed that the department would not be giving out the location where arrestees are expected to be detained during the convention before the event takes place.

“It’s just having a great plan in place and really, literally praying that people don’t get too crazy and there’s no kind of terrorist events,” Kielar said about security plans for the convention during the interview.

Kielar has stated that the city is preparing for more than 1,200 arrests.

The ACLU also filed a lawsuit in early May seeking information about parade routes and demonstration zones during the convention.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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