Denver pays $130K to couple who says they faced police retaliation over homeless advocacy

The encounter happened after the couple pulled over to film an interaction between police and people experiencing homelessness.
2 min. read
Shows Denver Police flag waving
A Denver Police Department flag at Denver Police Department headquarters. Jan. 25, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denver is paying $130,000 to an activist and her husband over claims that the Denver Police Department retaliated against the couple for homelessness advocacy. 

City Council approved the two claims Monday.

The first case, costing the city $100,000, dates back to 2021. Activist Regan Benson and her husband Brenton Benson pulled over on the side of the road to film an interaction between police and people experiencing homelessness.

Police then conducted a traffic stop, according to Andy McNulty, the Bensons’ lawyer with civil rights firm Newman McNulty LLC. They cited Brenton Benson for blocking the roadway, something the Bensons disputed. Police later revoked Brenton Benson’s license for the citation. 

“That process for getting a license revoked under DPD policy is only supposed to be used for people who clearly can't drive,” McNulty said. “But the cop, retaliatorily, did that in this case.”

Police later pulled Brenton Benson over for driving with a suspended license.

The officer involved, John Schaal, received a suspension after police leadership found he retaliated against Brenton Benson.

“The Department finds a preponderance of evidence validates Mr. Benson’s belief that Officer Schaal’s traffic stop and citation were retaliation for the Bensons’ filming, and not based on evidence of an offense,” wrote Commander Hans Levens in a report viewed by Denverite.

That internal investigation into the incident found that Brenton Benson had sufficiently pulled over onto the side of the road.

“The Denver Police Department would like to respectfully decline in commenting on the settlement,” a DPD spokesperson wrote in an email to Denverite Monday. “An internal investigation was completed and Officer John Schaal received a sustained complaint which resulted in 10 days fined suspension.”

The second case, settled for $30,000, involves Regan Benson’s ban from public citizen advisory board meetings involving police staff and community members, after a back and forth with police staff.

After she was no longer able to access the public meetings, Regan Benson filed a lawsuit allowing her back into meetings and for increased transparency around the meetings.

“I do see a pattern here,” McNulty said about the thousands of dollars Denver has paid out in recent years involving claims of police misconduct and retaliation. “There is no accountability for people who violate folks' rights, generally speaking, and that just perpetuates the ongoing abuse of those rights by Denver Police officers.”

Recent Stories