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ACLU accuses CSPD of racially biased policing

Posted at 1:18 AM, May 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-30 03:18:12-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a lawsuit this month against the City of Colorado Springs alleging a group of police officers engaged in racially biased policing. The complaint was filed on behalf of a black man who was stopped and searched by officers back in May of 2018 as they were looking for a juvenile car theft suspect.

The plaintiff, Corey Barnes, didn't respond when the officers asked him to identify himself. The officers then placed him in handcuffs, removed his wallet, and asked dispatchers to check for any open warrants before releasing him.

Barnes made a video recording of the encounter on his phone and uploaded the video to YouTube. It lasts for approximately 5 minutes.

"They're looking for an African American, here's an African American in the parking lot, let's detain him; that's racially biased policing," said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Colorado.

The lawsuit states that Barnes had gone to the Montecito Apartments in May 2018 to apply for a job. The police activity started while he was speaking outside with a maintenance worker. Barnes later made his way to his car when he was stopped by officers Carlotta Rivera, Katelyn Burke, and Williams Watson.

According to Silverstein, the officers were looking for a suspect described as a light-skinned black male with a large afro, wearing a grey hoodie and blue jeans.

"Mr. Barnes had very, very short hair, not an afro. He had a t-shirt on, not a zippered hoodie, he was 29 years old, not 15 and he had shorts on not blue jeans," he said.

The lawsuit also claims that officers continued searching Barnes for his wallet even after being notified that he was not the suspect.

"To put their hands on a person the police need facts that show objectively a reasonable suspicion that the person is armed and dangerous," Silverstein explained. "They did not have that."

Barnes filed a complaint with the department the next day. According to the lawsuit, CSPD's Internal Affairs Division concluded its investigation in August and determined that Officer Rivera broke procedure by removing Barnes' wallet.

Silverstein said the response from Internal Affairs downplayed the severity of the officers' actions.

"For the Internal Affairs Division to actually ratify the cops' actions, I think, is a further reason why this goes beyond just these three officers."

News 5 contacted representatives from both the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Police Department to ask about the case. It is a standing policy not to publicly comment on open lawsuits.

"CSPD, appreciates KOAA reaching out to our organization to discuss this incident, but we are unable to speak on any matter that is under litigation," explained Lt. Jim Sokolik in an emailed statement.