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ACLU Questions Exoneration of Colorado Springs Officers, Demands Internal Affairs Records Related to Racially-Biased Traffic Stop

6/24/2015

DENVER –The ACLU of Colorado made a formal request today under the state open records law for the entire file of the Colorado Springs Police Department’s recently-concluded internal investigation into the traffic stop of Ryan and Benjamin Brown, two African-American men who were pulled over, handcuffed, searched, and detained at gun point and taser point over a cracked windshield.

Ryan Brown, whose video recording of the stop has been viewed nearly 150,000 times on YouTube, received a brief boilerplate letter earlier this month informing him that police had conducted a “complete and thorough” investigation into the incident and concluded that the officers’ conduct was “justified, legal, and proper.”

“The ACLU of Colorado is deeply disappointed that the Colorado Springs Police Department has concluded, without explanation, that the officers’ treatment of Ryan and Benjamin Brown was justified and proper,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.  “The internal affairs decision makes it clear that, when officers removed Ryan and Benjamin from a vehicle at gunpoint and taser point, handcuffed them, searched them and detained them, all stemming from a traffic stop for a cracked windshield, it was just business as usual.”

“The message to the community, especially young people of color, is that they should expect this kind of treatment from Colorado Springs police during the course of routine traffic stops,” added Silverstein.  “That is unacceptable.”

The two brothers were driving just a block away from their home when Benjamin, the driver, noticed police lights flashing in the rearview mirror.  After a taser-wielding officer ordered him out of the car, he was handcuffed, searched without cause, and detained in the back of a police vehicle, even though he had been cooperative, no weapons or contraband were found, and there was no evidence to suggest that he had been involved in a crime.

Ryan Brown began recording the scene on his phone. His repeated requests for the officers to identify the reason for the stop were ignored.  Officers worked together to force him out of the car, push him to the ground, face down in the snow, search him, and cuff him, all the while at gunpoint.

While dragging Brown out of the car, officers on the video are heard saying that he is not under arrest and that they were just checking him for weapons.  No weapons were found.  Officers took his phone, turned off the video, and threw it in the snow.

Benjamin Brown was cited for a cracked windshield, and Ryan Brown was charged with “interfering with official police duties.”  Later that day, Ryan Brown provided his recording to the Colorado Springs Police Department to accompany his official complaint to internal affairs about the officers’ conduct. The ACLU announced in May that it will defend the Browns in criminal court.

“No reasonable person could watch Ryan’s video and conclude that two young white men would have been treated the same way.   Similarly, it is unfathomable how internal affairs could possibly conclude that the officers’ conduct was justified, legal, or proper.   We look forward to receiving the internal affairs file and reviewing the reasoning and explanation for the department’s conclusions. “

The ACLU encourages people to record their interactions with police.  This summer, the ACLU of Colorado will launch Mobile Justice Colorado, a free smartphone app that allows people to record video that automatically uploads to the ACLU, preventing law enforcement from deleting or destroying it.

Resources:

Read the letter from the Colorado Springs Police Department clearing the officers of wrongdoing: http://static.aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/2015-06-08-Brown-Cmdr.-Howard-IA-Investigation-Decision-REDACTED.pdf

Watch Ryan Brown’s video recording of the stop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkvPlxps7zo

Learn more about Mobile Justice Colorado: http://aclu-co.org/know-your-rights/mobilejustice/

Visit the ACLU case page: http://aclu-co.org/court-cases/colorado-springs-racial-profiling/



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