Apr 1, 2022 - News

Colorado's police misconduct investigations are limited by money

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images

The Colorado attorney general has received about 2,000 complaints about police misconduct, but a staffing shortage is limiting the office’s ability to launch new probes.

Threat level: The office has conducted just three civil rights investigations into law enforcement since its debut in 2020, the most notable being the inquiry related to the death of Elijah McClain that found a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive use of force within the Aurora Police Department.

  • The office spent 6,200 hours in staff time, or the equivalent of three full-time people working for an entire year, on that investigation alone, spokesperson Lawrence Pacheco told Axios Denver.
  • Many of the approximately 2,000 public requests for investigation into law enforcement agencies are duplicative or incomplete. It is unclear how many are credible.

Why it matters: The state's sweeping police accountability law made Attorney General Phil Weiser the top cop for police misconduct, a power similar to the civil rights division in the U.S. Department of Justice.

State of play: The Democratic-led state House rejected a $156,000 amendment to the Colorado budget to expand the division that conducts pattern and practice investigations before approving the $36.4 billion legislation Thursday.

  • Weiser requested one additional senior assistant attorney general position to join the two staffers who conduct the inquiries.

Between the lines: The funding request appears to be the victim of a spat between the attorney general and legislative budget writers, who are complaining the office isn't doing more with its current resources.

What they're saying: State Rep. Leslie Herod, a budget writer and advocate for the police accountability law, said "unfortunately to date we have not seen any evidence of expansion" in the office's work.

  • The Denver lawmaker also complained the attorney general couldn't say how many new investigations it would launch with additional money.
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