ACLU Calls on Denver Officials to Deliver on Promised Police Reform

March 24, 2005 12:00 am

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DENVER–The city administration is already failing to deliver on one of its promised reforms in how it deals with incidents in which police officers kill or seriously injure civilians, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado said today.

“Sixteen months ago the city administration announced what it billed as the most comprehensive police reforms ever undertaken in Denver, but it has failed to live up to that promise,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director. “The ACLU calls on the city administration to fulfill its commitment and issue public reports on uses of police force that result in civilian deaths or serious injury.”

On December 16, 2003, Mayor John W. Hickenlooper announced that as part of the city’s police reform efforts, the Denver Manager of Safety would issue a public report in every case in which police use of force results in a citizen’s death or serious bodily injury. Since that time, only one such report has been issued. That report, issued in April 2004, concerned the shooting death of Paul Childs by Officer James Turney in July 2003. Another report is expected by the end of this month on the shooting death of Frank Lobato by Officer Ranjan Ford in July 2004.

According to Silverstein, however, Denver police killed at least four other civilians in 2003, and there were five additional deaths as of August 2004. The Manager of Safety has not issued reports on any of those deaths.

The Lobato report is coming in response to demands from community activists that the Justice Department investigate Denver police. In an effort to forestall that investigation, city officials wrote to the Justice Department and touted various measures they said they had already undertaken to improve police accountability. In that letter, available on the city’s Web site at, Denver officials said they had adopted “a new requirement that the Manager of Safety will issue a public report on all incidents in which a citizen sustains serious injury or death at the hands of a Denver Police Officer.”

However, the ACLU’s Silverstein charged that not only is the Manager of Safety’s office failing to issue reports on every civilian death or bodily injury, but it also lacks a mechanism to ensure that the Manager of Safety is even notified of such cases.

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