Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 12.4.2014

HuffPo Blog: Fix the Police! Accountability Needed in Law Enforcement

(This blog post was featured on HuffingtonPost.com December 4)

Following the non-indictment of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for strangling Eric Garner to death with an illegal choke hold in Staten Island, it is clearer than ever that something is badly broken in our system of justice. Once again, a black man has been killed by a white police officer with impunity, and once again there is no accountability for excessive use of force by those who ought to be protecting our communities, not killing people in our communities.

This isn’t just a problem in Ferguson, Missouri or Staten Island, New York. It is a problem across our nation, including here in Denver. Just yesterday, the top headline in the Denver Post featured excessive use of force by local law enforcement. Too often, police use excessive force in arrests, and inmates in jails are killed or badly injured by local deputies. Excessive force complaints have resulted in millions of dollars of judgments or settlements in Denver and surrounding communities, but law enforcement officers are almost never arrested or disciplined for their violent actions.

There are many fine officers who are careful and restrained in their use of force, but as long as the system protects those who cross the line, even in a case where the killing was filmed and the death was ruled by the coroner to be a homicide, public anger and distrust toward law enforcement will only grow. The primary justification given for shielding law enforcement from accountability for use of force is that their jobs are dangerous and they need to be given wide latitude in how to use force to protect themselves. However, a world in which communities hate and mistrust the police because they believe the police hate and mistrust them is surely a world that is more dangerous for law enforcement officers, not less.

There is enormous work to be done to address the problem of excessive use of force, including better screening and training of those entering law enforcement, better efforts to build good community relationships with law enforcement, deeper understanding of the role of conscious or unconscious racial bias in policing, better data on police stops, and proper use of police cameras. But as recent events illustrate, even these measures will not be enough unless there is personal accountability for those officers who disgrace an honorable profession by treating their badge and uniform as a license to maim or kill.

Click here to join the ACLU’s call to the U.S. Justice Department to ban racial profiling by police and to require racial bias training against the use of force.

Tweets

Videos

  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: acluco.org/redemption. Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at https://action.aclu.org/give/support-aclu-colorado

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people.