Denver pays Colorado Independent editor Susan Greene $50,000 for cuffing her for recording police

Officers told her to “act like a lady.”
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A Lakewood Police officer, Aug. 21, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Denver City Council signed a check Monday worth $50,000 that settles a dispute between the Denver Police Department and Susan Greene, the editor of the Colorado Independent.

Officers Adam Paulsen and James Brooks violated police policy when they handcuffed Greene for recording officers near Colfax Avenue and Grant Street last July, DPD said earlier this year. The journalist came across the officers, who had handcuffed a naked man. She began recording the incident with her smartphone -- an act protected under the First Amendment.

The officers handcuffed Greene and put her in a squad car after she refused to stop filming. Brooks and Paulsen told Greene to "act like a lady" as they struggled to handcuff her, according to body camera footage.

Officers let Greene go, but DPD said in February that the officers violated its policies. Brooks and Paulsen flouted the rights of the public to observe and record police activities, which are allowed under the First Amendment, according to DPD documents. Brooks also crossed the line when he took Greene's phone.

DPD found that Paulen also crossed the line when he arrested Greene and claimed filming the naked man was against the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was not.

Both officers were docked two days' pay.

Although the officers did not seem to respect Greene's First Amendment rights, DPD released a statement earlier this year assuring the public that the department as a whole does.

"Guided by that value, the department trains officers on First Amendment issues, and has reiterated to officers the relevant policies involving First Amendment considerations," the statement said.

In February, Greene said she was encouraged by the investigation but disappointed that it omitted the officers' sexist remarks.

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

"I'm disturbed by the fact that Officer Brooks' bodycam 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.

City Council approved the settlement Monday after Greene and the Independent alerted the city of its intent to sue this winter.

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