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Racial justice hotline report: 39 percent of callers say they were injured by police

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A year ago, the Colorado Progressive Coalition relaunched its Racial Justice Hotline. The goal was to collect stories and statistics about racial profiling and police misconduct in the hopes of changing the culture of policing -- which, as evidenced by the story of Alex Landau, who was beaten by police after a traffic stop in 2009, can be brutal. This week, the coalition released some sobering statistics: 174 people contacted the hotline in 2012, and 39 percent said they were injured by police.

The statistics are part of a preview of an upcoming report about the renewed hotline's first year. Released yesterday, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the preview includes information about who contacted the hotline and what they reported.

For instance, 59 percent were Hispanic, 18 percent were black and 17 percent were white. Tania Valenzuela, a racial justice organizer with the coalition, says the high number of Latino people who reached out may be due to what advocates call Colorado's "show me your papers" laws, such as Senate Bill 90, which requires law enforcement officers to report anyone they suspect is undocumented to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In addition to the 39 percent who reported being injured, 30 percent of those who called or e-mailed reported being stopped unjustifiably and 65 percent said they were racially profiled.

The number of people who report excessive force by police worries Valenzuela. "It's a problematic number -- to have such a high percentage of people injured by police when law enforcement are there to serve and protect.

"We're not surprised that the culture of harassment and profiling exists," she continues. "We know it exists. Our work is to encourage people to speak up."

A full report, including more personal stories of police misconduct, is expected to be released in February. Valenzuela says the coalition hopes to use it as a tool to encourage more people to get involved -- and to encourage changes within the police department itself. "We hope to have stories and statistics and data for the decision-makers to understand what's going on and make the changes we want to see," she says.

Continue to see excerpts and statistics from the preview report.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Alex Landau discusses the lack of prosecution for the officers who beat him."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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