We understand the intent behind House Bill 1214 to provide a fresh start to those with lower-level criminal records — such as arrest records in which no criminal charges have been filed. Further, it allows some offenders — and those who have received full pardons — to petition to have their records sealed.
We do not oppose the idea of offering a clean slate to many who have blemishes on their records. We appreciate that a clean record better paves the way to housing and employment opportunities.
Even so, we strongly oppose HB 1214 because the loss of complete information would be too severe.
Passage of the bill would compromise the system because the cumulative value of the records is paramount. In our journalistic work to serve the public, we find revealing trends in complete arrest records. For example, we can analyze patterns that can lead to questions to ensure law enforcement agencies are accountable.
The information can tell us how agencies do their jobs, where they spend their time and with whom they interact in these patterns. The records can point to patterns of misconduct, racism and other issues. The patterns can play into whether to elect candidates to law enforcement positions, such as sheriff, and whether to vote to retain judges.
We understand that having lower-level infractions on a criminal record provides challenges for many, but criminal arrest records should be maintained in full to ensure the public's right to know and provide the whole picture for the media's queries.
Oppose HB 1214 for its unintended consequences. Urge your lawmakers to oppose this bill. Please join us in opposition along with the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and The Colorado News Collaborative (COLab).
For more perspective about this bill, visit the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition website.
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