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Colorado Springs to pay $212K for profiling traffic stop

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Mr. Brown held on the ground by a Colorado Springs PD officer during a 2015 traffic stop. Mr. Brown held on the ground by a Colorado Springs PD officer during a 2015 traffic stop.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

Civil rights lawyers say their clients were pulled over simply because they were black. During the traffic stop in March of 2015, Ryan and Benjamin Brown were handcuffed, searched and detained at gunpoint.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday that the City of Colorado Springs agreed to pay $212,000 to settle the racial profiling lawsuit they filed on behalf of the Browns and that the Colorado Springs Police Department has agreed to revise several of its policies related to stops, searches and recording officers.

"The racial profiling that Ryan and Benjamin Brown endured is still, unfortunately, all too common for young men of color," said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.  

"The difference in this case is that Ryan preserved video evidence of the officers' aggressive escalation and heavy-handed use of force.  Although the police department initially refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, city officials ultimately did the right thing by agreeing to fair compensation." 

Ryan Brown posted a video of the traffic stop online which has been viewed more than 165,000 times. The Brown Brothers were driving a block away from their home in a what the ACLU describes as a predominately white neighborhood when they were pulled over.  An officer drew his taser on Benjamin, the driver, and ordered him out of the car.

Ryan Brown began recording the incident on his phone. The civil rights group says Ryan's repeated requests for officers to identify the reason for the stop were ignored. Officers then forced him from the car at gunpoint, handcuffed him then grabbed the phone, stopped the recording and threw it in the snow.

The Browns filed a formal complaint with CSPD following the incident. In June of 2015, the Department informed Ryan Brown that their investigation found the officers conduct was "justified, legal and proper."  The ACLU then filed suit in October.

"I knew that what happened to my brother and me was wrong, and that I needed to speak up," Ryan Brown said in a news release.  

"I am grateful to the ACLU of Colorado for holding the police accountable, for standing up for our rights, and for winning policy changes that will hopefully prevent others from having their rights violated."  

As part of the agreement, Colorado Springs will make available online all of the changes to its policies as a result of the settlement by July 1, 2017. The Chief of Police has also agreed to meet in person with Ryan and Benjamin Brown to discuss the incident.

The settlement is not an admission of guilt by the City or the Colorado Springs Police Department. The police said in a news release that the decision to settle was a practical one, considering the legal costs and financial risk involved.

The full statement reads as follows:

The Colorado Springs Police Department, together with the Office of the City Attorney, made the difficult decision to settle the Brown case. Although CSPD sincerely believes the claims of racial profiling were unfounded, the decision to settle was based on comparative analysis of the high cost of legal proceedings and the risk of financial liability in the event the city did not prevail in every aspect of the lawsuit. However, there has been a complete and thorough Internal Affairs investigation of this incident, and it was determined that the actions of the officers did not violate Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) policy.

On several occasions, the ACLU has inaccurately portrayed CSPD as a department that routinely violates citizen’s rights. The public is invited to review CSPD’s most recent Annual Use of Force report (https://cspd.coloradosprings.gov/content/cases-interest) to gain an informed and fact-based opinion of the level of restraint, accountability, and transparency that is central to how CSPD delivers police services.

In the past, the ACLU has failed to “set the record straight” when allegations of misconduct were disproven, as in the Tally case in July 2015. Today’s ACLU announcement follows that same unfortunate practice.

(See Cases of Interest at https://cspd.coloradosprings.gov/content/cases-interest)

Moving ahead, CSPD has issued over 450 body worn cameras which will be able to provide additional information through video footage of patrol officers’ interaction with citizens from initial contact through conclusion. Body worn cameras provide protection both to citizens and to officers in these types of cases and accusations.

The Colorado Springs Police Department remains committed to consistent, fair, and even-handed enforcement of the law. To accomplish that objective, CSPD takes steps to mitigate bias through hiring practices, training, policies, and outreach to diverse communities. Equally important to these steps is the department’s robust internal accountability system. In the event of a complaint of racial bias, the department thoroughly investigates the complaint and takes appropriate action if a policy violation is found.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE ARREST VIDEO 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

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