The Denver Police Department says it has opened an internal investigation into an incident in which The Colorado Independent’s Editor Susan Greene was handcuffed and detained after attempting to document a police interaction on Colfax Avenue.
Greene was near the intersection of Colfax and Grant Street at about 3:40 on Thursday afternoon when she noticed a naked man in handcuffs seated on the sidewalk surrounded by police officers.
She stopped to observe and began to photograph the situation.
In a column published Friday morning, Greene said Officer James Brooks told her to stop photographing, to which she responded that she had a First Amendment right to take pictures on a public sidewalk. Greene says Brooks told her to stop because she was violating the naked man’s HIPAA rights. Greene said that when she started taking a photo of Brooks’ name tag and badge, the officer “grabbed me and twisted my arm,” told her act like a lady, handcuffed her and detained her in a police car. After about 10 minutes, she said, police released her without a charge or explanation.
Denver police said in a statement Friday that the naked man Greene observed was “in crisis” when police showed up.
“As officers were waiting with the man for an ambulance to arrive,” the statement read, “a bystander began taking pictures of the incident. Officers confronted the bystander (Greene) and detained her until after the person was transported to the hospital.”
Greene says it looked like medical help was already on the scene, and that what raised her interest was why the man was in handcuffs and why they weren’t doing more to cover up his body or move him out of public view off the sidewalk into the ambulance.
The internal investigation will include oversight by the city’s independent police monitor, the statement said.
In a separate statement, Amber Miller, spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Hancock, said, “We’ve seen instances in this country where citizens and journalists have recorded instances of police brutality and misbehavior. So we take seriously the importance of the First Amendment, and Denver is not about arresting journalists who are doing their job. That said, it will be important not to prejudge the situation until the internal investigation that is underway is completed.”
The First Amendment protects the right to photograph people, police included, in public.
Meanwhile, the city has refused, for now, to provide The Independent with records of the incident, including audio and body-cam footage.
“Because the investigation into this incident has just been opened, we believe that the Department’s interest in maintaining the integrity of that investigation as well as the public interest in a thorough and complete investigation, outweigh any public purpose to be served by release of those requested records at this time,” Mary Dulacki, records administrator, told The Independent in an email.
“We believe it would be contrary to the public interest to release those items when the investigation into the incident has just been initiated.”
Dulacki did say, however, that the naked man, who’s not been identified, was not arrested. He has been released from the hospital.