Three years ago on Sunday, police officers pulled over Alex Landau, then nineteen, for taking an illegal left turn onto Emerson. They then beat him bloody. Although Landau received one of the city's largest police brutality settlements in May -- $795,000 -- his story remains a chilling example of racial profiling. On Monday, Landau will team with the Colorado Progressive Coalition to relaunch a hotline dedicated to preventing his story from repeating itself.
Together, Landau and the CPC are renewing their call for the officers involved in his brutality case, as well as those associated with Michael DeHerrera and an incident at the Denver Diner, to be removed from the force. The renewed quest for results comes in conjunction with a stronger push for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Denver law enforcement. "Coming to reality that that actually happened to me took a long time, and from that I just want other people to know that you can't be shut down," Landau says in the video below. "Don't let anybody shut you down."
Landau, who is a frequent volunteer for the coalition, will give a speech to other CPC representatives and then march with them during the Martin Luther King Jr. Marade on Monday. The date also marks the first shift of the newly revamped hotline, which the group will promote throughout the day. During the parade route, Landau and the CPC will pass by the corner of Colfax and Emerson, where he was assaulted.
"It's not just to celebrate MLK Day, but it's to show that three years later, the officers in his case have not been disciplined," says Mu Son Chi, the CPC's racial justice and civil rights program director. "Alex was racially profiled. There was no illegal left turn."
The hotline originally began in 2002, though it has since fallen into a temporary slump. In 2000, CPC volunteers took to Denver's Cole neighborhood for a community research project in which they talked to residents about their experiences in the area. The results were unsettling: An overwhelming number of neighbors reported having been racially profiled. "One of the testimonies that was really powerful was a young woman, who, when she was going to school, said she was asked by a police officer if she was a prostitute," Chi recalls.
In response to that study, the hotline became a way for people across the metro area to reach out for answers. "Because of the statistics, we wanted to continue doing work with that issue."
In the past, the hotline has been routed directly to the Colorado Progressive Coalition's offices on Santa Fe, leaving Chi and his predecessor to singlehandedly tackle most of the calls. But with the new push toward promotion for the hotline comes an effort to streamline it: Starting Monday, the relaunched hotline will be manned by two dozen volunteers, who will alternate weekly shifts. Victims of racial profiling can call 866-329-0908, and though the hotline is not guaranteed to be monitored 24/7, volunteers will reach out as quickly as possible, Chi says.
From there, volunteers will collect information regarding an incident and submit it via an online form to Chi. He'll then connect them with legal resources when necessary. All calls are confidential.
"You get to a point where you're not surprised, but the average person would be shocked to hear that somebody was stopped, pulled out of their car and threatened with an attack dog for no reason," Chi says. "People have shown me video of officers grabbing cameras out of their hand. The calls we get are insane."
In recent weeks, the Colorado Progressive Coalition has met with new Police Chief Robert White a handful of times to discuss the issue of excessive force, among other topics. "They know our feelings," Chi says. "These are cases that absolutely must be avoided in the future. If officers were disciplined appropriately, this would not happen."
Moving toward the future, the CPC is pushing for all brutality investigations to take ninety days, in addition to any officers at fault being fired. Chi attributes much of the force behind police brutality cases as apathy, but he says a developing changing of the guard in local politics could indicate a strong step forward.
"Since that time, we've seen a new mayor, a new chief and new safety managers," Chi says. "This is all a legacy of community participation because our community stepped up in action. These changes are a product of our community saying this is unacceptable."
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Alexander Landau on $795,000 police-brutality settlement: 'I can move forward.'"
Read our original cover story here: "Alex Landau was pulled over for making an illegal left turn and ended up beaten bloody."
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