The Colorado Independent: Tina Griego – my colleague who’d normally edit this column – suggested that I calm down and sleep on it before writing.
Find your grounding, she urged me over the phone Thursday on one of her rare days off from our news desk.
That, of course, was sound advice that would have been workable but for the fact that I find my grounding by writing and I’m also so through-the-roof angry that I won’t sleep without having pounded my keyboard about my run-in with a Denver police officer.
It started with the sight of a black man, handcuffed and seated naked on a Colfax Avenue sidewalk across from the Statehouse, his private parts covered only with a small towel, while several Denver police officers stood around him.
As a journalist, I probably would have stopped in any case. But in this particular case, there was context for my interest. It stems partly from the fact that Denver sheriff deputies stood around the limp, lifeless body of Marvin Booker, a homeless, black street preacher, after they killed him in Denver’s jail in 2010. And it also stems from officers similarly having stood around Michael Marshall, a mentally ill, homeless, black man, after having fatally restrained him in 2015.
Given Denver’s history of uniformed officers harassing, hurting, or killing folks, sometimes without offering them medical help, it is part of my job to take notice of any questionable treatment of people in law enforcement’s custody.
That’s what I did Thursday when I was driving on Colfax and wondered why police were standing around a man they’d handcuffed and had sitting butt naked on the sidewalk without taking efforts to at least cover him up.
I parked and was using my iPhone to shoot pictures of the scene when Denver Police Officer James Brooks, badge No. 07030, blocked me, then got in my face and told me to stop. I said it was a public sidewalk and that I had the right to take photos. He said I didn’t. I said I did, citing the First Amendment. Officer Brooks tried to one-up me, all legal-like, by saying I was violating the man’s HIPAA rights by shooting his picture.
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