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Alex Landau was pulled over for making an illegal left turn and ended up beaten bloody

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"The number of sustained cases involving excessive force is minimal," he adds. "It's very rare, and that's not just in Denver, that's all over the country."

Landau's lawyers aren't counting on that investigation to reveal the truth. And so last week, they filed a 37-page federal complaint, complete with pictures, alleging that the actions of Murr, Nixon and Middleton, along with the "dangerous environment of police retaliation" fostered by Chief Whitman and the City and County of Denver, violated Landau's civil rights. "The government was changing hands, it didn't seem like it was a focal point for resolution during the elections, and time was a-wasting," says John Holland. "It was time to file suit."

The morning after that complaint was filed and just hours before news of the filing broke, interim Denver mayor Bill Vidal took advantage of his swearing-in ceremony to address the issue of police brutality — the issue people had most mentioned as a concern to Vidal after it became clear he would be mayor. Asking the city's officers and deputies to "remember the days when you graduated from the academy," Vidal implored them "to continue to serve our citizens with the same optimism and dedication, knowing that the actions you take make a difference in their lives, and to act in a manner that you would be proud of, no matter who is watching."

And while Vidal can't comment specifically on the Landau allegations because the case is under investigation, he says he'd like to wrap up all unresolved cases of alleged police brutality before a new mayor is elected. "Such cases are taking a long time, and it is actually the length of time, in my opinion, that hurts our reputation, because it makes us look like we are stalling," says Vidal. "My hope is we move on these cases appropriately faster, so we can get them resolved in a more timely fashion."

Landau's case might even lead to citywide improvements, suggests Metro professor Sandoval. "This civilian oversight business is ongoing," he says. "It's always developing, it's continuous, and we as citizens of Denver and those on the Citizens Oversight Board and in the Independent Monitor's Office have to be extremely vigilant, because the police are the only entity that has a monopoly on the use of deadly force. These kinds of incidents emerge every once in a while, and they sometimes serve as additional impetus to improve the process further." For example, Sandoval points out, the city's first citizen oversight group, the Public Safety Review Commission, was formed in 1992 after a public outcry over the treatment of fifteen-year-old Jovan Ivory, who said cops had called him racial epithets and kicked and beaten him — and had graphic photos of his injuries.

For his part, Landau is just trying to take one day at a time. He's been writing a lot about what happened to him, trying to process his emotions through his lyrics. "I guess I've felt like I've had a lot to say," he says. "It's definitely helped me incorporate more passion into my music."

And that's helped him keep going. It's like what his English professor, Yvonne Frye, used to tell him: Stick with it, justice is going to come. She said that to him the last time he saw her in October, before she was killed by a drunk driver. He coupled that pain with her advice, and put it into his lyrics:

*****

RIP, Yvonne Frye, who showed me this light in the darkest night

Damn right, we're fam' for life, al'ight

I've grown a lot in the past year

Even though a lot of paths just aren't that clear

Sometimes all I know is to adhere

To my solo isolation

My lyrical combination

A money motivation and no hesitation

Corrupted police beat my face in

With no justification

But that won't stop me now.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner