Zombie Crawl Cop's Use of the N-Word: Offensive or No Big Deal?

A screen capture from body-camera footage obtained by CBS4. More images below.
A screen capture from body-camera footage obtained by CBS4. More images below.

As we've been reporting, the Denver Police Protective Association has called for Denver Police Chief Robert White to resign because cops weren't ordered to intervene before a pair of police-brutality demonstrators poured red paint on a memorial to fallen officers on February 14.

Turns out a DPPA board member is also upset over discipline handed out to a white police officer who was recorded on his own body camera using the N-word — and she's African-American.

The story comes to us from CBS4, which obtained the footage in question — the first from a body camera publicly released by the Denver Police Department.

On October 18, 2014, the station reports, Denver Officer Adam Paulsen was assigned to crowd control at the annual Zombie Crawl event downtown when he was among law-enforcers who responded to a situation in which "the crowd became unruly." Along the way, a couple of people were pepper-sprayed, with the mist stinging the eyes of additional individuals nearby.

As all this was going down, a man approached Paulsen and tried to pass through an area the police wanted to keep clear. "Nigger, I'm trying to get through," he said.

To that, Paulsen barked, "I'm  not a nigger, walk around to your family."

Paulsen's tone of voice suggests that he was stressed and agitated. However, he didn't call the man the N-word. Rather, he repeated it after it was directed at him.

The man in question didn't file a complaint against Officer Paulsen, CBS4 points out. However, the comment was flagged during a DPD review of body-camera footage, with the result being an official reprimand for being "discourteous" placed in his file late last month.

Denver Police Commander Matt Murray defended this action to the station, saying, "That word is offensive, that word draws emotion out of a lot of people. That’s not a word we want to hear bandied about. It’s not professional. The word is inappropriate. We have a professional standard and that behavior does not meet that professional standard.”

However, Detective Victoria Oliver, the aforementioned DPPA board member, thinks Paulsen didn't deserve the wrist-slap.

"I see nothing wrong with it,. He was responding to a statement that was made to him. As an African American female, I have no issue or problem in the context he used it in. This has nothing to do with racism — he responded to a word," Oliver said, adding that other black officers in the department feel the same way 

She characterizes the result as "political correctness gone awry."

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Despite this difference of opinion, Murray believes the use of body cameras that night paid off, since the video "helped show officers acted appropriate that night after citizens accused them of excessive force and unprofessional behavior," CBS4 reports.

Given that Murray himself says Paulsen's use of the N-word was "not professional," this last assertion is apparently still up for debate.

Here's the CBS4 report.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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