Failure to disclose disciplinary actions keeps public in the dark about police misbehavior

From the Colorado Springs Independent: Tuesday, Nov. 24 marks the first anniversary of a grand jury’s failure to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the August 2014 shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

When Wilson was cleared by the grand jury, riots broke out in Ferguson and elsewhere, and the Black Lives Matter movement was born, challenging cities across the country to examine policies pertaining to the use of excessive force by their police departments.

Closer to home, the streets of Colorado Springs weren’t marked by protests, but months later the Ferguson episode simmered in the minds of Springs Police Officer David Nelson, and brothers Benjamin and Ryan Brown.

Ryan Brown, who is black, referred to the shooting in Ferguson several times as Nelson, who is white, pulled him from his vehicle during a traffic stop on March 25 of this year. Later, Nelson told internal affairs investigators that during the stop he was thinking of “all the stuff going on with police officers these days [and] stuff that happened in Ferguson.”

Since the Ferguson shooting, other questionable uses of force have made headlines. In Denver, significant monetary payouts resulting from police brutality led to a sweeping study, which was immediately released to the public when it was completed in May.

Still, it’s far from clear how much race plays into officer actions in Colorado Springs, and it’s impossible to know if officers use force on black people more often than whites. Why? Because the Colorado Springs Police Department shrouds investigations of its officers in secrecy, refusing to release most internal affairs files, although state law allows for them to be.

Records obtained by the Independent through open-records laws show that Brown isn’t the only citizen Nelson has manhandled. Nelson has filed three reports of his physical contact with suspects in the past five years, not including the Brown case.

Visit the Colorado Springs Independent for more.

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