Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Police brutality is killing us, says ACLU of Colorado

"Police Brutality is Killing Us." That was the stark message, laid out in black-and-white, in the editorial pages of the Denver Post yesterday. But this wasn't an editorial: It was an ad placed by the America Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, part of a new Race to Justice campaign designed to hammer home police brutality as a major issue in this mayoral campaign. The ACLU is calling for a town hall meeting on police brutality, and has set it for June 2, five days before Denver will elect a new mayor. Here's more of its message, laid out on the website

Welcome to the Race to Justice campaign.

The recent incidents of excessive force and racial profiling committed by Denver's Police and Sheriff Departments simply cannot be allowed to continue. Denver needs a radical overhaul of our public safety agencies; one that rebuilds community trust and creates an atmosphere where abuse is never tolerated. The ACLU, along with many other community groups and local leaders, is demanding immediate action.

Why did we take out an ad in the Denver Post? Because reform cannot wait. We are encouraged by the Justice Department's decision to consider a formal investigation of Denver's law enforcement agencies, but this conversation needs to begin with the community.

As evidence of excessive force, the ACLU cites the case of Alexander Landau, who was pulled over for allegedly making an illegal left turn and brutally beaten, as Joel Warner first reported here; Denver City Council recently agreed to pay Landau a $795,000 settlement.

And then there's Michael deHerrera, the son of a sheriff deputy who was beaten as he left LoDo one night -- a beating captured on a stunning video. And Marvin Booker, whose death in Denver's new jail might have improved physical conditions but did nothing to improve attitudes.

By the way, our latest cover story, "Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal keeps a close eye on the Denver police," deals with these three cases and many other incidents of alleged excessive force by police.

Here's the full Race to Justice statement, which includes a petition you can sign:

Thank you for supporting our Race To Justice by signing our petition calling on the Mayor-Elect to make this his administration's top priority.

The following groups and individuals have already signed on to the statement below:

Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance

Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition

Denver Branch NAACP

Colorado Progressive Coalition

Colorado Progressive Action

9to5 Working Women of Colorado

Art Way

Progress Now Colorado

COLOR: Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights

Escuela Tlatelolco

Nita Gonzales

Colorado Prison Law Project

------------- We the undersigned condemn the decision of Denver's Manager of Safety, Charlie Garcia, that five Denver Sheriff Deputies will receive no punishment for the Coroner‐verified homicide of Rev. Marvin Booker while in custody, because the deputies violated no policy.

A man is dead; a son, a brother, a friend is never coming back, and there is no punishment for those who took his life? Simply because of the blue uniform they wear to work?

We are outraged.

As Denver residents of all backgrounds, representing a broad cross‐section of this community, we believe our law enforcement agencies should protect the public, build strong relationships with the neighborhoods they serve, and be accountable to the residents of this city. Instead, Denver is plagued by decades of law enforcement abuse, from racial profiling to brutality to sexual assault to homicide. Although these troubling occurrences are often reported as isolated events, we know our public safety agencies have created a culture of abuse and we can no longer survive the status quo.

We are uncompromising.

A minor policy change, a single community meeting, or any other token effort to mitigate our concerns will not satisfy us. Denver needs and deserves a radical overhaul of our public safety agencies; one that rebuilds community trust, prioritizes transparency and accountability, and creates an atmosphere where abuse is never tolerated. We have come together to honor the memory of all those who have been victimized by the very public "servants" we should all trust, and we will not back down.

We are organized.

The Public Safety Manager's decision in the homicide of Rev. Marvin Booker may have been the catalyst for our coming together, but we know that there is one person who we will now look to show the leadership that can change the dynamic ‐‐ our next mayor.

Enough is enough.

In signing this letter, we give notice to the Mayor‐Elect that we have seized the authority to recast the landscape of policing in this city. Our expectation is that our efforts will begin with him and it will happen in a meeting we demand take place in the days immediately following the election.

We sign this statement because we expect the Mayor‐elect to prioritize this issue and to join with us to develop an authentically community‐driven process that revolutionizes law enforcement practices in Denver and turns a culture of fear and isolation into one of safety and collaboration.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Denver police brutality scandal: A multimedia timeline."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun