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Police Abuses Spark Calls for Internal Investigation; End to Pepper Ball Guns for Crowd Control

In an April 12, 2012 news release, the ACLU of Colorado announced it has submitted a detailed complaint to Denver Police Chief Robert White and the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor today, requesting a formal investigation of unreasonable and abusive use of force and other misconduct in policing Occupy Denver demonstrations at Civic Center Park last fall. The complaint calls for Chief White to ban on the use of pepper ball guns for crowd control.

Focused primarily on events that occurred October 29, 2011, the complaint traces police overreaction to a misguided and irresponsible decision to forcibly enforce a minor ordinance that prohibits erecting tents in city parks. The ACLU asserts that Denver police violated their own crowd control policies (as well as common sense) by needlessly antagonizing a large crowd of mostly peaceful demonstrators, prompting a confrontation that escalated in intensity and severity.

In the ensuing confrontation – documented in the ACLU complaint with photographs, video, and excerpts from police reports – Denver police responded with abusive use of batons (knocking nonviolent demonstrators to the ground); needless destruction of personal property; and the unjustifiably hazardous shooting of pepper ball guns into crowds.

“Shooting pepper balls into a crowd of demonstrators, especially a crowd of moving people, is reckless and extremely dangerous,” explained Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The Boston police learned this several years ago, when a police pepper ball hit a bystander in the eye and killed her. We call on Chief White to forbid police from firing these dangerous weapons into crowds of persons who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”

A copy of the ACLU’s complaint will also go to the United States Department of Justice, which is still considering the ACLU’s call —made last year in a detailed 26-page letter — for a federal investigation of the Denver Police Department’s pattern of civil rights violations. Denver has resisted that call, maintaining that its police department can adequately investigate allegations of police misconduct.



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