Denver Police Department concludes officers violated policy when they handcuffed Colorado Independent editor for taking pictures

The rights of the public to observe and record police activities are allowed under the First Amendment and in DPD’s own internal rules.
3 min. read
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen addresses the press about a recent shooting downtown, Nov. 20, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver police officers Adam Paulsen and James Brooks violated department policy when they handcuffed Susan Greene, the editor of the Colorado Independent, for taking pictures near Colfax Avenue and Grant Street last July, according to the Denver Police Department.

Greene came upon officers who had handcuffed a naked man "in crisis" lying face down on the sidewalk, according to DPD. The journalist began recording the incident with her smartphone -- an act allowed under the First Amendment.

Brooks took Greene's phone when she refused to stop filming. The officers then handcuffed her and put her in the back of a police car. Brooks and Paulsen told her to "act like a lady" as they struggled to cuff her, according to body cam footage.

Officers freed the journalist after consulting with a supervisor.

An internal investigation found that the officers violated internal policy, according to a DPD press release sent Tuesday.

Brooks flouted the rights of the public to observe and record police activities, which are allowed under the First Amendment and in DPD's own internal rules, according to documents provided by the department. He crossed the line by taking Greene's phone, too.

Paulsen flouted the rights of the public to observe and record police officers as well. Additionally, he crossed the line when he arrested Greene and claimed, falsely, that it was against the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for Greene to record.

Both officers will be docked two days' pay.

"The Denver Police Department res [sic] the First Amendment rights of all individuals," DPD said in a statement. "Guided by that value, the department trains officers on First Amendment issues, and has reiterated to officers the relevant policies involving First Amendment considerations."

Reached by phone, Greene said she was encouraged to see Mayor Michael Hancock's police department take some disciplinary action. But she was disappointed that the investigation omitted the officers' sexist remarks in its conclusion.

Brooks' body cam should have been on earlier, too, Greene said.

"I'm disturbed by the fact that Officer Brooks' body cam was not on when this incident started, and if it had been, the department would have seen the level of aggression with which he approached me," Greene said.

Paulsen told police investigators that he was "only trying to protect the patient's privacy," according to police documents. Greene disputes that idea.

"The approach does not address the question of if the officers were generally concerned about the well-being of that man, why were they standing there for so long, doing nothing?"

Greene and the Independent have hired Kilmer, Lane and Newman, the civil rights firm that handled the cases of Michael Marshall and Marvin Booker, who both died in the custody of Denver sheriff deputies.

"We're in discussions with Denver so I don't want to talk right now about anticipated litigation, but if we're not able to reach an appropriate resolution, we're ready to litigate," attorney Mari Newman said.

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