need help

NEED HELP?

Find CCDC programs to help assist in advocating for you or someone you know with a disability.

LEARN MORE
ACTION ALERT

ACTION ALERT

Keep up to date with disability rights activities you care about. Choose a few topics or sign up for all of them!

LEARN MORE
issues

ISSUES

Find the most common issues people with disabilities face and how CCDC can help.

LEARN MORE

Open Records Act/Criminal Justice Records Act Investigation of all Colorado County Sheriffs’ Auxiliary Aids and Services Policies

title-line

Issues

In 2012, there were 64 counties in Colorado. CCDC sent Colorado Open Records Act (“CORA”)/Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act requests to 61 counties seeking their policies, practices and procedures related to providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services and effective communication to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program had already resolved issues with one County Sheriff’s Department and was currently in litigation with 2 others at the time the CORA requests were sent.

With respect to the investigation, CCDC’s Civil Rights Legal Program had been collaborating with the Department of Justice Disability (“DOJ”) Rights Section.  On October 16, 2012, CCDC’s Legal Program sent a memo to DOJ counsel detailing the investigation so far.  See the letter below.  Please note that this memo only describes the policies of those Sheriff’s Departments that provided policies in response to our CORAs. CCDC will continue to work with the DOJ and United States attorneys whenever possible to enforce these types of cases.

Consistent with CCDC’s mission to ensure social justice for people with all types of disabilities. CCDC’s goal in conducting these investigations, litigating the effective communication cases against Sheriff’s Departments, and collaborating with the DOJ, is to ensure that every Sheriff’s Office in the state of Colorado complies with its duties to provide effective communication to witnesses, suspects, victims, arrestees and detainees who are deaf and to take appropriate steps to ensure that auxiliary aids and services will be offered and provided to deaf witnesses, suspects, victims, arrestees and detainees. To the extent that CCDC receives complaints from individuals who are deaf who have not been provided appropriate auxiliary aids and services, most often including sign language interpreters, CCDC sends a letter requesting compliance. If that does not resolve the issue, litigation is usually the only viable solution. Not every case has been exactly the same. What CCDC has noticed as time has gone on, is that Sheriff’s Departments often put policies, practices and procedures in place including training, but they don’t follow them. This also results in deaf and hard of hearing individuals not receiving appropriate auxiliary aids and effective communication. It is also commonplace for Sheriff’s Departments to claim that any interaction with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing that involves witnesses to a crime, suspects, arrestees or detainees involves an “emergency.” One thing that is prohibited by the DOJ regulations is relying on an adult companion or family member or a minor child to interpret or facilitate communication except in an emergency. Because Sheriff’s Departments claim every interaction is an emergency, they rely on other individuals, including children to try to facilitate communication with deaf individuals involved and the deputies or law enforcement agents. The DOJ has been very clear to distinguish what a typical and foreseeable emergency is from an emergency that could have devastating consequences:

The [DOJ] recognizes that the need for effective communication is critical in emergency situations. After due consideration of all of these concerns raised by commenters, the [DOJ] has revised § 35.160(c) to narrow the exception permitting reliance on individuals accompanying the individual with a disability during an emergency to make it clear that it only applies to emergencies involving an “imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public.” See § 35.160(c)(2)-(3). Arguably, all visits to an emergency room or situations to which emergency workers respond are by definition emergencies. Likewise, an argument can be made that most situations that law enforcement personnel respond to involve, in one way or another, a threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public. The imminent threat exception in § 35.160(c)(2)-(3) is not intended to apply to the typical and foreseeable emergency situations that are part of the normal operations of these institutions. As such, a public entity may rely on an accompanying individual to interpret or facilitate communication under the § 35.160(c)(2)-(3) imminent threat exception only where in truly exigent circumstances, i.e., where any delay in providing immediate services to the individual could have life-altering or life-ending consequences.

28 C.F.R. pt. 35, app. A (analysis of Section 35.1 60 Communications).

As of the date of this revision (4/5/19), the following cases involving Sheriff’s Departments have been brought or settled:

Adams County Sheriff
Arapahoe County Sheriff
Boulder County Sheriff
Conejos County Sheriff (enforcement of CORA/CCJRA request)
Denver County Sheriff (on 2 occasions)
Douglas County Sheriff
Larimer County Sheriff
Jefferson County Sheriff (on 2 occasions)
Pueblo County Sheriff


Status of the 2012 CORA Requests and Responses

Of the 61 CORA requests, 47 counties timely complied with the request and provided responsive information.

Of the 47 responses, 35 counties had no written policies in place:

  1. Baca
  2. Bent
  3. Boulder
  4. Chaffee
  5. Clear Creek
  6. Costilla
  7. Crowley
  8. Custer
  9. Delta
  10. Dolores (they do not have a jail, use Montezuma County’s jail)
  11. Fremont
  12. Garfield
  13. Grand
  14. Gunnison
  15. Hinsdale (they have no jail)
  16. Huerfano
  17. Jackson
  18. Kiowa
  19. La Plata
  20. Lincoln
  21. Mesa
  22. Moffat
  23. Montezuma
  24. Montrose
  25. Morgan
  26. Park
  27. Pitkin
  28. Prowers
  29. Rio Blanco
  30. Routt
  31. San Juan
  32. Sedgwick
  33. Summit
  34. Teller
  35. Washington

Of the 47 responses, 12 counties had written policies that address the issue:**

  1. Arapahoe
  2. Broomfield
  3. Douglas
  4. El Paso
  5. Lake
  6. Larimer
  7. Las Animas
  8. Logan
  9. Otero
  10. Phillips
  11. San Miguel
  12. Weld

**Some of these counties’ policies are sufficient, some do not do enough to ensure that a deaf or hard of hearing arrestee/detainee will have effective communication.

 

Of those 61 CORA/CCJRA requests, 14 counties did not respond at all, so we sent Notices Regarding Application for Order to Show Cause Why [the Sheriff] Should Not Permit Inspection of Records Requested:

  1. Alamosa — responded to Notice that they do not have policies
  2. Archuleta — responded to Notice that they do not have policies
  3. Cheyenne — responded to Notice that they do not have policies, there is no jail
  4. Conejos
  5. Eagle – have sent their policy in response to Notice
  6. Elbert — have sent their policy in response to Notice
  7. Gilpin — responded to Notice that they do not have policies
  8. Kit Carson – responded to Notice that they do not have policies
  9. Mineral – Settled
  10. Ouray – responded to Notice that they do not have policies
  11. Pueblo – settled
  12. Rio Grande – have sent their policy in response to Notice
  13. Saguache – responded to Notice that they do not have policies
  14. Yuma – have sent their policy in response to Notice policies, practices and procedures

Available Document


Media Coverage


    Important Notice
    CCDC’s employees and/or volunteers are NOT acting as your attorney. Responses you receive via electronic mail, phone, or in any other manner DO NOT create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), or any employee of, or other person associated with, CCDC. The only way an attorney-client relationship is established is if you have a signed retainer agreement with one of the CCDC Legal Program attorneys.

    Information received from CCDC’s employees or volunteers, or from this site, should NOT be considered a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. www.ccdconline.org DOES NOT provide any legal advice, and you should consult with your own lawyer for legal advice. This website is a general service that provides information over the internet. The information contained on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation.

    A+ A-