July 2, 2006
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Denver today, ACLU lawyers alleged that a Colorado Springs police officer used his heavy police-issued metal flashlight to administer a vicious beating to the ACLU’s client, Delvikio Faulkner, a young African American who was riding with two other young men in a car that was initially stopped for a minor traffic violation.
According to the suit, Officer D.K. Hardy delivered six blows from the flashlight, including three to Mr. Faulkner’s head. The blows continued long after it was clear that Mr. Faulkner was not resisting. Faulkner required hospital treatment, including eight staples to close the head wounds.
“A blow to the head from a police flashlight poses a substantial risk of serious bodily injury and even death,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “It is the equivalent of deadly force. Police officers are not justified in clubbing a suspect in the head with a flashlight unless they would also be justified in pulling out a gun and shooting, which certainly was not the case here.”
“According to police reports, Mr. Faulkner was suspected of nothing more than failing to provide his correct name when asked to identify himself,” said Reid Neureiter, who, along with his colleagues, Elizabeth Harris and Kathryn Reilly of the Jacobs Chase firm in Denver, is litigating the case as an ACLU Cooperating Attorney. “He was not armed and Officer Hardy’s partner acknowledged that Mr. Faulkner posed no physical threat whatsoever. Even if Mr. Faulkner initially pulled away when he was placed under arrest, as Officer Hardy believed, the officer responded with grossly excessive and disproportionate force, and he continued beating Mr. Faulkner even after it was clear that he was compliant.”
The incident, which took place exactly two years ago, prompted the Colorado Springs Police Department to conduct an internal investigation into Hardy’s action. When the ACLU asked the City for documents created in the course of that investigation, the City refused. Colorado Springs then sued the ACLU and asked the state district court to declare that the police department’s internal affairs file was not subject to disclosure under the Colorado open records laws. The ACLU won that suit earlier this year, and it obtained the full investigative file on the beating of Mr. Faulkner.
“The investigative file shows that Hardy’s partner, Jackson Andrews, witnessed the incident and believed that Hardy’s beating of Faulkner was unnecessary, uncalled-for, and excessive,” Silverstein said. Although the investigators recommended that Hardy be disciplined, Hardy appealed. Before the appeal could be decided, however, Hardy was fired for his role in a different incident.
“The Colorado Springs Police Department deserves credit for recognizing that Officer Hardy was out of line,” Silverstein said. “Although Hardy is no longer working as a Colorado Springs police officer, our client has not received any compensation for his serious injuries or for the egregious violation of his constitutional rights. This lawsuit seeks that compensation.”
According to Silverstein, the internal affairs file also revealed that Officer Hardy’s unit was assigned that night to engage in deliberately aggressive and provocative policing tactics. “The officers were told to stop as many cars as they could and to ‘toss’ the cars, meaning they should conduct searches and rummage through the passengers’ belongings,” Silverstein said. “This assignment is a recipe for harassment, pretext stops, and racial profiling. It is unfortunate that the Colorado Springs internal investigation did not criticize this instruction or even find it noteworthy.”