Littwin: The dangers cops face every day do not include a reporter wielding an iPhone

As you may have heard, Indy editor Susan Greene was handcuffed and detained by two Denver cops Thursday in front of the state Capitol for — and I can’t emphasize this enough — simply trying to do her job and for nothing more.

It’s an outrage, of course. This standoff between cop and reporter is not a product of the Trumpian fake news era, by the way. This is the product of a longstanding police issue with what we’ll call transparency and which long predates Donald Trump.

But if you read the comments on Greene’s column — a column that went viral because the First Amendment apparently still means something in America — you’ll see the national divide being played out in its usual ugly form. Greene, many of the commenters complained, was whining, she was disrespectful, she was a cop-hater, she was out to exploit the man held by the police, she was a purveyor of fake news. If you read carefully, you could almost hear those at a Trump rally cheering the commenters on. 

Evidence for what had happened with the man — cuffed, naked except for a smallish towel — and what happened to Greene for investigating the incident should be available from the cop-cams that police officers wear. We’ll see. To this point, the police have refused to release the evidence to The Indy. In the days of #blacklivesmatter, more and more cops across the country are wearing cameras, but we’ve also seen how often the cameras are somehow turned off when the situation grows dicey.

Greene was driving down Colfax and saw a group of cops surrounding a man sitting on the sidewalk, with just a cloth covering the parts that, by law, needed to be covered. It looked, well, potentially dicey. As a reporter who writes often and well on social justice issues and especially criminal justice issues, she pulled over to find out what was going on. (For evidence of Greene’s profound interest in this area, you can read here of her award last year from the ACLU of Colorado for her work in civil rights.) Among other things, she wanted to know why the police had not covered up the man sitting exposed on the sidewalk.

This is what reporters do. Meanwhile, what cops often do when confronted with nosy civilians or nosy reporters is to try to shoo them away and try to shut them down. Any reporter can tell you of such confrontations. I can’t say how many I’ve had, but I can say that none of them ended with me in cuffs. These cops crossed a line this time that must never be crossed.

Greene was taking pictures with her smart phone. The cops told her she couldn’t. She explained it was a public sidewalk and that, according to the Supreme Court’s reading of the First Amendment, she can take all the pictures she wants in a public place. One cop then said — and this was amazing both in its ignorance of the law and, I’ll concede, in its speed of reply — that she was violating HIPAA rules by taking photos of a mostly naked guy.

The cop was wrong, of course, in about a half-dozen ways — HIPAA rules? Seriously? He could have made a better case for spitting on the sidewalk. That didn’t stop him from detaining Greene for obstruction, slapping on the cuffs, roughly twisting her arm while insisting she was resisting the officers, advising her to act more ladylike. For the record, and in what should be obvious to anyone, Greene wasn’t interested in photos of the man in question or anything that would invade his privacy. She wanted photos of the cops surrounding the naked guy. And that was the issue.

This is no story of cops facing danger, as they too often do. This is no story of split-second judgment in which mistakes are inevitably made. This was the story of a reporter doing her job and cops going to extraordinary measures to prevent her from doing her job, which, they should know, is protected both by the Constitution and by state law.

The police defended their actions by saying the man in question was “in crisis” and that they were awaiting medical help. The man was not arrested. He was taken to a hospital, from which he has been released. What this explanation doesn’t do is explain how Greene ended up in cuffs in the back of a police car. 

It’s no secret that the news-gathering institutions are under assault. Days after five reporters were killed at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Trump was in North Dakota at a political rally and, predictably, back on his fake-news kick. We journalists are not alone, of course. Trump also insulted a dying John McCain, a frail 93-year-old George H.W. Bush, and Maxine Waters’ supposedly low IQ.

In Denver, the story is different. We know of the needless deaths of men in police custody who have mental issues, maybe issues not so different from the man Greene saw on the sidewalk. We know of these stories because Greene has been at the center in covering them. Most of the officers involved have been lightly reprimanded despite the evidence uncovered by Greene and other reporters, the same evidence that has led to millions of dollars in settlements with the families of those who died.

It’s something in that history that led Greene to pull over. It’s something in that history that led Greene to be cuffed.

It’s something in that history that is prompting the Denver police to launch an internal investigation of the matter.

It is something — no, everything — in that history that should worry every Denver resident.

Photo of marks left by restraints on Susan Greene’s wrist after Denver Police detained and then released her. Photo by Susan Greene.

37 COMMENTS

  1. I agree that the cops have a job that only the “few and the brave” would assume. I understand why they felt “challenged”. BUT…we are (not yet) a police state.

    Citizens (including suspected criminals) have rights. A credentialed journalist should be recognized and respected just as the cops expect to be recognized and respected…even if their actions don’t warrant it.

    If the national government is not cognizant of constitutional and legal rights, Colorado cops must be.

    If an independent press cannot function we are lost as a society.

  2. This is outrageous! Not only is this a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, it is a violation of the oath these police officers took which states:

    POLICE OFFICER’S OATH
    I do solemnly swear by the ever-loving God that I will support the Laws and Constitution of the United States and of the State of Colorado, and the Charter and Ordinances of the City and County of Denver; and that I will faithfully perform the duties of the office of Police Officer of the City and County of Denver, to which I have been appointed.
    DENVER POLICE DEPARTMENT
    CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER
    STATE OF COLORADO

  3. Credentialed media are required in some states to wear identifying ID or other identifiers.
    Also, journalists know not to interfere, stay back a substantial distance if yellow tape isn’t up and what the laws are. Cops on the other hand should know by now that taking pictures of law enforcement in a public space is legal.

  4. Such biased crap journalism. The police are not out to play games with these snowflakes. If I was in their position he would have had lasting brusing.

  5. Rogue cops who violate the rights of citizens make all of you LEO’s look bad.

    The next time maybe you LEO’s should take a clue and act right instead of breaking the laws that you are paid to enforce.

    You really have no one but yourselves to blame.

  6. As usual, Mike L makes lucid & valid points in his column. However, just because you CAN do something does
    Not always mean you should. Absent any indication the police were treating the
    man badly, should someone even take pictures? Would a journalist take pictures of a car accident victim whose clothes were missing or who was bleeding?
    Jean Monforton

  7. Snowflakes? REALLY? Who is it that after decades of bad mouthing everyone is now calling for “civility” since it’s coming back in THEIR faces? Knock that CRAP off if you want to actually have a discussion. Because quite honestly, after you righties screamed about killing off “PC”, suddenly you’re VERY upset about the words people are using about you.

    Let me clue you in on something, Snowflake: We on the left have been biting out tongues for decades in an attempt to keep the peace. You decided that all that goes out the window. When you don’t like the TORRENT of retribution that comes your way, just remember who you have to thank for that. YOURSELVES.

    Take your blasted Limbaugh “I hate Americans” nonsense and go sit in your room. You have NO business engaging in ANY discussion with that attitude.

  8. Not everyone is suited to be a police officer, just as not everyone is suited to be a president. Unfortunately, we seem to occasionally suffer from the unsuitable attaining jobs they shouldn’t have.

  9. Chris Johnson,

    I enjoyed your comment and hope you’ll continue to contribute.

    Please do not pay attention to anyone who says you have no right to participate in a discussion. Those are the people only interested in one-sided discussions.

    And it’s usually the weaker side.

  10. Don Lopez.

    Those people who are only interested in one-sided discussions are always the weaker side. That would be you and Chris Mr Lopez.

  11. Ryecatcher,

    Don’t be so bitter!

    The weaker side lost the discussion on November 08, 2016.

    But the really good news is Hillary Clinton is considering another presidential run in 2020.

  12. Don Lopez

    Actually Don, You’re correct. The weaker side did lose. Mr Trump lost by three and half million votes.

    The really good news is Mr. Trump’s approval rating remains in the low 40’s and he is considering another run in 2020.

  13. Ryecatcher,

    I’ll say this slowly so maybe you’ll understand something Hillary Clinton doesn’t/didn’t:

    e-l-e-c-t-o-r-a-l c-o-l-l-e-g-e

    But you’re not alone in your desire to change the rules after the fact, following President Trump’s stunning victory many wanted to use the popular vote to elect the president.

    How’s that working out?

  14. I’ll say this slowly so as not to deflate your ego. p-o-m-p-o-u-s a-s-s

    But you’re not alone. Most of you who prefer one sided conversations desire to change the rules and follow the preposterous pomposity of the “fake news” presidential Bum.

    I won’t ask how that is working out for you. We know how it’s working out and how it will eventually end, badly for your sad sack president.

    Have a nice day.

  15. Chris Johnson

    My Chris! You sound as though your “all man”. Are you? Do you self flagellate while watching the WWF?

  16. Ryecatcher,

    I’m assuming your 1:43 pm comment was aimed at me but if it was intended for Mr. Littwin there’s no need to read further.

    “presidential Bum”? “sad sack president”?

    Stay classy! You’ve finally sunk to your true level haven’t you?

    But this “presidential Bum”, this “sad sack president” is the 45th President of the United States and now occupies the Oval Office, something Hillary Clinton will never do.

    And he’ll be there another six years!

    So buckle up.

  17. Why Mr Lopez. My 1:43 comment was aimed at your, I’ll spell it for you, p-o-m-p-o-u-s a-s-s. Fair enough?

    Regarding the “sad sack president” and “presidential Bum”, you’re thin skinned sensibilities are duly noted. Perhaps presidential, and again I’ll spell it for you, a-s-s h-o-l-e would be a more appropriate choice.

    Clearly the potential level to which president Bum’s supporters will eventually sink becomes increasingly obvious with supporters of your caliber who prefer “one sided conversations” to reality.

    Stay classy for now. Your MAGA delusions are amusing.

  18. Why Mr Lopez, my 1:43 comment must have somehow seemed confusing given you’re July 13 2:48 thin skinned response.

    Sorry to upset you so. You must buckle up in the future. The latest indictments should illicit a degree of concern. But for those of you lost in MAGA land probably not.

    Continue your one sided denials and all will be well.

    So toodle ooh Mr. Lopez.

  19. Ryecatcher,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    But here’s something that needs no clarification: The latest indictments—like those preceding them—have once again failed to link President Trump with those under indictment.

    I know that probably disappoints you and if so try this: close your eyes tightly and click your heels twice.

    It won’t change anything but it might make you feel better. Sort of like voting for Hillary Clinton.

    Six more years!

  20. Mr Lopez.

    Like a proper FOX simpleton you close your eyes and end up clicking your tongue to the dictates of Hannity and the various noise makers in the one sided media better known as Trump fake news.

    Any sort of attempt to clarify the latest indictments with Trump fan is akin to talking to a fire hydrant which in most cases would be the more sensible approach.

    Hopefully you’ll feel better long after president Bum is gone and you’re in a better place.

    Have a nice day Mr Lopez.

  21. Ryecatcher,

    Thanks, I will have have a nice day, today and every day for the next six years.

    So I’m a simpleton? What happened to your compassion, your tolerance, your desire for a multi-sided discussion? Maybe a better question would be whether you know what compassion, tolerance and multi-sided discussions are? Or have they been replaced by juvenile name calling? You’re much better at that.

    Or at least better than you are at picking a winning presidential candidate. But, of course, the same could be said of Democrats as a whole. Or maybe it’s simply selecting a candidate who understands the rules.

    And when you say, “the one sided media better known as (President) Trump’s fake news.” I’m assuming you mean CNN.

    Right?

  22. Your assumption is incorrect. I’m referring to FOX the mainstream network for simpletons with one sided opinions, lack of awareness, slaves to fake news and worse Trump propaganda. Do you need picture to aid you?

    For candidates who understand the rules (that’s rich) I’m thinking you need the advice and consent of FOX noise makers. You realize FOX is nothing more than a Grade B Trump infomercial. Hannity and the Bum have regular conversations about how to improve the noise and rattle the faithful, like you for instance. So sorry Mr Lopez! You seem to be the victim of a hoax like so many republicans of late.

    You dismiss the indictments for lack of clarity or reasoning capacity to see beyond the end of your nose. Simplistic thinking derived from hours of FOX and Limbaugh laden Trump noise. No worries. The next six years will add to your existing problems. In fact it may only be the next six months.

    Toodle ooh Mr Lopez.

  23. If you eliminate your name calling you’ve got very little to say. But, hey, you’ve gotta go with what you do best.

    You seem to know a lot about Fox news. Do you watch it much? If you do you’re a self-proclaimed simpleton.

    I didn’t dismiss the indictments I simply said, “The latest indictments—like those preceding them—have once again failed to link President Trump with those under indictment.” And if you don’t believe me—-and I’m guessing you don’t—-here’s what David Harsanyi of The Federalist said (NOTE: If you’re allergic to the truth please, please don’t read this quote), “One of the things we learned from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (most recent indictments) is that we still have no evidence of “collusion” between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller has brought in almost 200 indictments— and that’s great — but not one of them has shown a Russian-Trump conspiracy. Like you, I have no clue what future prosecutions will look like, but on this day Rosenstein explicitly noted that nothing in the Justice Department’s indictment featured an allegation that any American citizen had committed a crime.”

    Here’s the CliffsNotes version of Mr. Harsanyi’s quote: “…we still have no evidence of “collusion” between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.”

    Of course, there’s always the possibility Mr. Harsanyi watches Fox news, too.

  24. Amazing Mr Lopez! You’re incensed with the name calling and immediately call me a “simpleton” in the next sentence. How do you explain that? Hypocrisy perhaps?

    Yes yes David Harsanyi the heavily credentialed conservative mouthpiece and former Denver Post agitator with whom I’ve tangled in the past. Like you he’s a touch pompous. But that’s an argument for another time wouldn’t you agree?

    It’s wise you not take the indictments lightly given Mr Trumps extensive financial background many of which have seemingly had questionable outcomes for those stupid enough to get involved with Mr Trump. Don’t you find it odd Mr Trump refuses to reveal his tax returns?

    Given your cavalier opinion concerning Mr Trumps term in office, you’re not alone in this thinking as most Trumplings are equivalently naive, perhaps it would behove you to review federal laws regarding income tax evasion, money laundering and obstruction of justice to name a few.

    Regarding FOX news, there are pockets of sanity within the swamps Shep Smith and Chris Wallace. Beyond that there’s nothing more than Trump noise.

    Just saying Sherlock! Like that one Mr Lopez? You seem to have a problem with labels which of course will remain, your problem.

    For now, toodle ooh once again.

  25. Ryecatcher,

    Once again, as usual, you’ve missed the point.

    I didn’t call you a simpleton you called yourself a simpleton. You characterized those who watch Fox news as “simpletons” while also admitting you watch Fox news.

    Get it or am I going too fast?

    And again you seem incapable of commenting without name calling. Now you’re saying I’m “pompous”. Really?

    I find I have to repeat myself but everyone learns at a different speed so here goes…..again

    I am not, repeat not, taking the indictments lightly I simply saying, “The latest indictments—like those preceding them—have once again failed to link President Trump with those under indictment.” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted that nothing in the Justice Department’s indictment featured an allegation that any American citizen had committed a crime.

    Is that clear enough or do have repeat that, too?

  26. Could you repeat that please? Really! I’m not sure why you’re so bitter Mr Lopez. You should relax and take things in stride like me.

    I asked about Mr Trump’s tax evasion issue and it appears it went over your head. I can repeat it if you desire Mr Lopez. Don’t you think its odd president Bum refuses to reveal his tax returns to the American public. Makes one wonder what he is hiding other than more hush money to Stormy perhaps. Right Mr Lopez?

    You do realize that even though you claim you are taking the indictments seriously, your idiot president isn’t. (Trump is fair game, right?) It’s interesting that his assistant AG briefed him on the indictments and yet he persists with the “with hunt” folly. Don’t you find that remarkable for a sitting US President not to be outraged by a cyber attack on our election by a sworn enemy with nukes targeting our homeland?

    President Bum still considers Vlad his buddy or “competitor” is more to the point. I’m sure president Bum will go one on one with Vlad then emerge claiming Vlad is not aware of any of his thugs meddling into our affairs on his orders. End of story in Mr Trump’s shriveled mind. A bit odd as well as unsettling when you think about it right Mr Lopez.

    Oh well. Just continue with your FOX visions of MAGA glory and the next six years. Best you think about the next six months Mr Lopez.

    Is that clear enough or do you want me to say it again, your president is a traitorous BUM.

    Thank you Mr Lopez and have a wonder full evening.

  27. Ryecatcher,

    I think we may actually agree on something: I, like you, find it “remarkable for a sitting US President not to be outraged by a cyber attack on our election by a sworn enemy with nukes targeting our homeland?”

    So why wasn’t Barack Obama outraged and why did he fail to act during the 2016 election when he knew there was a cyber attack on our election by a sworn enemy with nukes targeting our homeland?

    But I’d like to digress just a bit. You’ve accused me of preferring one-sided discussions. If that were true—-and, of course it isn’t—-why am I a faithful and long-standing reader of Mr. Littwin’s column? I really don’t expect an answer because I know you don’t have one.

    You seem to suggest that by refusing to reveal his tax returns President Trump gained some sort of advantage which is far from the truth. Hillary Clinton simply failed to take advantage of his refusal which isn’t surprising considering she obviously was unaware that the electoral college determined the winner of a presidential election.

    And while you said President Trump’s “tax evasion” I think you probably meant tax avoidance which as I’m sure you know—-actually I’m not at all sure you know—-avoidance is not criminal.

    Just curious, what are you expecting to happen in the next six months? Other than Thanksgiving.

  28. Mr Lopez is just curious. No surprises here. Given the news that president Bum, a traitor and puppet of Vladimir Putin just stood toe to toe with Vlad and claimed there was no collusion despite the US Intelligence evidence to the contrary.

    Mr Lopez like his fading conservative ilks constantly seeks to deflect the conversation reverting to the “crooked Hillary Obama” moonshine apologizing for the MAGA monster in the White House who is nothing more than an amateurish useful idiot in the hands of the more experience Vladimir Putin.

    Mr Lopez pathetic defense of a traitor to our country serves as an example of the ignorance of those who voted for the useful idiot Donald J Trump.

    By Thanksgiving Mr Lopez will talking himself.

  29. Ryecatcher,

    Why do you continue to hide behind that juvenile pseudonym?

    Be a man—-or woman—-and step out into the sunlight. You might enjoy it. Of course, I can understand your reluctance to have your real name associated with those comments.

    You’ve accused me of preferring one-sided discussions. If that were true—-and, of course it isn’t—-why do I faithfully read each and every one of Mr. Littwin’s columns? I really don’t expect an answer because I know you don’t have one.

    What do you expect to happen by Thanksgiving that will cause me to start talking to myself? And if President Trump is—-as you claim—- “an amateurish useful idiot” how do you explain his November 08, 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton?

  30. Isn’t that sweet. Mr Lopez faithfully reads every one of Mike’s columns then has an emotional reaction to Mikes’s views consistent with FOX noise wing nuts of his ilk.

    By Thanksgiving Mr Lopez will be dining on Crow droppings that is if he can muster the mental discipline to eat a meal.

    Donald Trump is a traitor to our country and Mr Lopez by his compelling need to defend a traitor is by association an accomplice of sorts.

    Mr Lopez if memory serves once advertised himself as a “Wounded Warrior” type. I suppose Mr Lopez desired the reader to believe his patriotic credentials were impeccable. It turns out he supports a traitorous President who could be facing the gallows by Thanksgiving while Mr Lopez dines on cyber hacked Spam.

    Toodle ooh Mr Lopez.

  31. Ryecatcher,

    Why do you continue to hide behind that juvenile pseudonym?

    Be a man—-or woman—-and step out into the sunlight. You might enjoy it. Of course, I can understand your reluctance to have your real name associated with those comments.

    Are you the same guy who just yesterday said, “You should relax and take things in stride like me”.

    You sure don’t sound relaxed and you sure don’t sound like you’re taking things in stride. In fact, you sound just the opposite. You sound hyper-stressed. Did you know that bellyaches are a sign of stress and you’ve been bellyaching for a long time.

    But at least you admitted to believing that by Thanksgiving you expect President Trump to be facing the gallows. What, no firing squad?

    Are you sure you aren’t stressed?

    What do mean by “a Wounded Warrior type”? Are you defaming those who have been wounded in defense of the United States?

  32. Don Lopez

    Why Mr Lopez. Whatever are you talking about? I must say Don Lopez has a rather hollow ring to it much like that of a junior pseudonym suckling on the MAGA teet.

    I noticed you were gushing with two other junior pseudonym types CapitalistRoader and Jo Sef. You seemed giddy to have help. Do their junior pseudonyms ring your chimes?

    Are you reacting rather than thinking things through? I was under the impression real conservative men were all about reason and rationality yet here we have a junior pseudonym type Don Lopez losing his cool. There is professional help available for that sort of thing.

    I want to say thank you for your service in a cause greater than yourself, a wounded warrior for Trump. That takes courage especially when you’re outnumbered and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Don’t get caught in the crossfire.

    The next round of indictments are just around the corner and we all know how seriously you take indictments, right Mr Lopez?

    My best to you and your new pal CapitalistRooter.

  33. I know our country adores specializing, but actually, you don’t have to be a trained journalist, or a trained anything, to take pictures on a public sidewalk. You do have to be trained however to be a police officer. And that training should include why you can’t arrest someone who isn’t breaking the law.

    I realize some trolls hijacked this comment section, but it’s important for US citizens to remember that they STILL have rights protected by the constitution, and that we should speak out when we see and hear about other citizens rights being taken from them, especially when its by force, and in a way that leaves visible marks on their bodies.

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