DENVER – Yesterday, Denver officials announced a new directive empowering police to unilaterally ban people from public parks based on an accusation of perceived drug use. According to the directive, a person does not need to be charged, tried, or convicted of any crime for a ban notice, which is punishable by jail if violated, to be issued.
ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley issued the following statement:
“Denver’s park banishment directive is an unacceptable end run around the Constitution. There are already laws on the books to deal with illegal drug use. Those laws guarantee due process and basic civil liberties protections against potential abuse. The park banishment directive, which is not authorized by statute or code, empowers police to banish people from public parks based only on an officer’s accusation and nothing more. The banishment takes effect immediately, with no opportunity, other than a possible appeal down the line, to rebut or contest the officer’s accusation. That is a backwards approach, and it contradicts even the most rudimentary understanding of due process and how the law is supposed to work.
“After months of constant and continuous sweeps, unaccountable private security policing the public 16th St. Mall, and increased use of various ordinances to push people who are homeless and living in poverty out of public spaces, this administration cannot be afforded the benefit of the doubt to now administer an unchecked banishment program. The only conclusion that can be drawn, given this administration’s policing-first crackdown over the last several months, is that this directive will be another in a long line of questionable tactics used by the city under the auspices of ‘perceptions of safety’ to selectively target, harass, and drive out people who are homeless and have nowhere else to go.”