Denver officials have ordered new training for police detectives and are considering policy changes in the wake of disclosures that the initial eye-witness descriptions of crime suspects may be overwritten in some instances and never make it into court files.
And while the Police Department's computer system keeps a log of the edits officers make to those descriptions, attorneys in the public defender's and district attorney's offices cannot recall ever seeing one — raising the specter that potentially critical information may be inadvertently withheld from defense attorneys.
Lt. Matt Murray, a spokesman for the Denver Police Department, said detectives are trained to record changes they make in sections of their reports that cannot be revised. But he also acknowledged that it's hard to know how many detectives have not followed that protocol.
The Denver Post reported last month that the computer software officers use to write reports includes a section that is updated as new information about suspects is uncovered. As a result, a crime victim's description of an attacker could be lost if it's not noted elsewhere.
The Post's report was the first time many in the legal community had heard about the issue.
"It's a major, major, major problem," said Dan Schoen, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. "I don't know that it was malicious or intentional. I like to believe the best about people. But that doesn't mean it's not a major problem."