Greene: No charges for Denver cop in handcuffing incident

I wrote last month about a July 5 incident in which a Denver police officer handcuffed me and restrained me in a police car for photographing his colleagues handling a man they had restrained, butt naked, on Colfax Avenue.

Officer James Brooks asserted that I was violating the man’s HIPAA rights by shooting pictures on the public sidewalk. Also, while prodding me, handcuffed, toward the police car, Brooks told me to “act like a lady.”

Readers have been asking about the upshot.

In the seven weeks since, Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration hasn’t handed over body cam footage of the incident, as The Independent has requested. We, as well as the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Association of Broadcasters and the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition have asked the administration what, if anything, the mayor will do to keep officers from stopping journalists or any member of the public from taking photographs or otherwise engaging in free speech liberties in the city. We’ve had no answer.

Hancock did order an internal affairs investigation of the incident. And earlier this month, I was questioned for 90 minutes as part of that inquiry. By that point, the internal affairs officer questioning me said his office had interviewed about 20 people regarding the incident. Brooks, incidentally, wasn’t one of them. It felt during his questioning that I rather than Brooks was being investigated.

Police asked if I wanted to press charges against Brooks. I declined for two reasons. One was that in two decades covering Denver, I’ve never seen authorities throw the book at any officer who hurt — or even killed — someone with unnecessary force. I knew the chances were nil of them doing so in this case. The other reason was that I was fully aware that if police and prosecutors deemed Brooks’ behavior illegal, it was within their own power to charge him.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann gave me the courtesy of a phone call today to say her office won’t be prosecuting Brooks. She said a charge of false imprisonment wasn’t an option because there’s an exemption for cops. And she said her office likely would have a tough time convincing a jury that Brooks assaulted me.

I asked McCann about her take on the incident beyond the question of criminality. “I don’t know that he knew you were a journalist, for one thing,” she said. “But people are entitled to take pictures as long as people are not” getting in the way of police. She added that Brooks’ “act like a lady” comment “was a little unnecessary.” And she said we’ll likely be hearing something from Hancock’s administration now that she has made her decision not to prosecute.

We at The Independent and our colleagues at newspapers and TV stations statewide look forward to answers from the mayor. As I wrote in a column last week, our newsroom is poised to take whatever action necessary to compel the city to keep its police from restraining journalists or anyone else exercising their First Amendment rights in Denver.

Stay tuned.

Photo of Denver officer James Brooks, center, by Susan Greene

22 COMMENTS

  1. Poor snowflake cops. Such a scary journalist. I hope they aren’t suffering from PTSD.

    Let’s hope time can somehow eventually heal their wounds.

  2. It amazes me that handcuffing a person for taking pictures is acceptable in the US. A lady reporter taking pics does not seem to warrant such things. Only in America? Probably not as many countries have laws against taking photos or video of the police in action. Germany is one such country and does so under the guise they are protecting the individual rights of those being photographed including the police. No one gets cuffed but the photographer might be fined.

    Taking a photo of a half or fully naked woman seldom raises an eyebrow but take a pic of the police arresting a naked man in public gives the police the authority to handcuff a harmless reporter while being arrested. Why the need to arrest the reported and not just issue a ticket or sorts? Much of our law enforcement seems to be out of whack and, perhaps, geting worse.

  3. Not surprising but what was the result of the internal affairs investigation? What’s the status of that and will they make it public?

  4. One more element to demonstrate the dubious competencies of the Hancock administration. Seven weeks to reach a non-decision, not release video, and avoid making a statement.

  5. Yes, by all means scapegoat Democrats for the actions of corrupt police officers, the ranks of which are overwhelmingly Republican.

    Sounds stupid when you say it out loud like that doesn’t it.

    When police forces get rightfully sued for this type of illegal behavior, among other common examples of malfeasance, the quickest way to ensure it doesn’t happen again is to take the settlements directly from the police officers’ pension fund.

    They will quickly police their own…thus it may be that the best solution to get rid of bad cops is to hit all cops in the wallet…it may be the only message they are willing to acknowledge.

  6. So we’re done scapegoating dems for the behavior of bad cops?

    Good, cause that’s the worst kind of stupid.

    And yeah….you guessed it…some dude’s opinion on quora ain’t gonna change that common sense statement.

  7. Jay,

    Look, I just want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly.

    You’re saying that scapegoating Democrats for the behavior of bad cops is the worst kind of stupid but suggesting the overwhelming ranks of corrupt cops are Republicans—-without offering even a scintilla of proof—-isn’t?

    Is that right? So we just take your word for it?

    And you’re suggesting that claiming the overwhelming ranks of corrupt cops are Republicans—-sans proof of course—-is a “common sense statement”.

    Is that what you’re saying? In what universe?

    And let me try this just one more time: Do you have any proof—- anything at all—- to support your claim that the “overwhelming ranks of corrupt cops are Republicans”?

  8. Uh oh, sometimes throwing a tantrum about inconvenient truths again.

    Once again, Comrade Don, I’m not here to be your tutor. Turn off the Fox and Limbaugh…it’s making you dumb. Read something that’s been peer reviewed.

    Tell us the story of how the military ranks aren’t overwhelmingly conservative too…

    Here’s another inconvenient truth…Chicago has a lower homicide rate than several other major cities that aren’t helmed by ex Obama COS Emmanuel.

    What would Fox have you believe?

  9. Jay,
    Look, I just want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. If you can’t answer these questions—-and I know you can’t—-just say so. No one will make fun of you, well, except me

    You’re saying that scapegoating Democrats for the behavior of bad cops is the worst kind of stupid but suggesting the overwhelming ranks of corrupt cops are Republicans—-without offering even a scintilla of proof—-isn’t?
    Is that right? So we just take your word for it?

    And you’re suggesting that claiming the overwhelming ranks of corrupt cops are Republicans—-sans proof of course—-is a “common sense statement”.

    Is that what you’re saying? In what universe?

    And let me try this just one more time: Do you have any proof—- anything at all—- to support your claim that the “overwhelming ranks of corrupt cops are Republicans”?

  10. See, this is what I’m talking about when I say stupid, intellectually dishonest troll, rube, etc. Quotation marks are used to denote specific language…not language you just made up.

    Yes, Comrade Don, the majority of military and police ranks are Republicans. In other news, the sky is blue, water’s wet, and Republicans are still complicit. Still common sense statements.

    Google Scholar is your friend.

    This is what happens when you try to live in a false reality bubble…

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/08/25/three-people-killed-11-others-wounded-in-shootings-in-chicago.html

  11. Jay,

    The following is quote from a comment you made to this column on August 24, 2018 at 12.57: “corrupt police officers, the ranks of which are overwhelmingly Republican.”

    Did you write this, yes or no?

    If not, just say so but if you did please provide a reference to support your claim that the overwhelming number of corrupt police officers are Republican.

    Or are you still claiming that you know the overwhelming number of corrupt police officers are Republicans simply because it’s common sense?

  12. Yep…just what I said…police ranks are overwhelming Republican and voted for Trump by huge margins. The FOP even endorsed Trump for president.

    Again…this isn’t exactly shocking to those of us who don’t live on Hannity’s Fantasy Island…or who aren’t too afraid that the scary Google will burst their ideological bubble.

    Now, this is twice you’ve behaved like I child because you didn’t like inconvenient facts…is it because you’re a troll or stupid?

    In either case, you don’t seem to be very good at this…

  13. We must all pay attention to the facts in this case. A journalist was arrested for taking a photo on a sidewalk.
    Hello? This should scare all of us. It’s time for that video to be released. We deserve an explanation because, hello?, we pay the police force with our taxes. Mayor Handcock, time to step up and take accountability for your police officers’ actions. Now.

  14. Basically cops hate assholes. You were acting like a child, I’d think you’d want the whole matter to just go away. I love the part where you are making the officer drag you to the car, just like a five years old that doesn’t get their way. This reflects poorly on you and you are setting a bad example for others to follow. Next time try acting like an adult, cop asks you to stop, you stop and sort it out later, instead you decide to have a tantrum, refuse all requests and refuse all lawful commands. You are actually pretty luck you didn’t eat pavement. I will agree that the officer shouldn’t have said “lady”, I would have said “act like an adult”.

  15. You were taking pictures/videos of a naked man, are you kidding me!? In what world is that okay? Clearly he was not in the right state of mind so give him some dignity and at least blur out the picture above. Furthermore your child like behavior is very unnerving, if you would have followed directions you would not have been put in handcuffs. You wasted so much time and energy of so many different resources.

  16. “Basically cops hate assholes”

    *Basically cops are assholes

    There…fixed it for you.

    Cops are all about rule of law…until they feel the need to break it.

    Body cams should operate the moment they put on the uniform until the moment they take it off.

    It’s quite literally the only effective way to ensure their honesty…as proven time and time again.

    Filmed cops are behaved cops.

    For everyone out there…if you see police in action, do your part to protect the public and film them. You never know what you’ll catch.

  17. Hi, I was there when this happened.

    There were a number of people laughing and taking photographs of this man before the police arrived, and they quickly put an end to it – because he was NAKED. Have a little respect! This woman did not identify herself as a journalist, and there was no way for the police to know the difference between her and every other person there recording a mentally ill man for their Snapchat.

    Susan proceeded to hijack the scene and make it about her. This poor man had to sit naked on the sidewalk for far longer than necessary, while she took up everyone’s time to argue. About what is a total mystery – the police were treating the man gently, and it’s perfectly reasonable to stop people from taking photos of a man’s nudity.

    She CONTINUES to make it about her with these articles – in two articles, she gives this man only a passing sentence before going on to whine about how mistreated she was. It shows what she really cared about here – she didn’t see a naked man that needed help, she saw a story. This was exploitation, and she should be ashamed. They detained her for interference, because that’s exactly what she was doing.

    Is the man okay? Is there anything we can do to help? We’ll never know, because Susan Greene is still making it about herself.

  18. The U.S. Courts have ruled that even though someone might not write for the “institutional press,” they’re entitled to all the protections the Constitution grants journalists. So she had no need to identify herself as anything. The police were wrong about HIPAA applying at all. She was not obstructing and was far enough away to not be interfering. Also SCOTUS has ruled the police may lie, may be absolved from actually knowing the laws and recommend citizens not even talk to the police….

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