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ACLU to Represent Colorado Springs Men, Claims Racially Biased Policing

PHOTO: The ACLU of Colorado will defend two African-American men the civil rights organization says were victims of racially biased policing during a traffic stop in Colorado Springs. The passenger, who shot video of the incident, is being charged with interfering with official police duties. Photo credit: Matty Ring/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: The ACLU of Colorado will defend two African-American men the civil rights organization says were victims of racially biased policing during a traffic stop in Colorado Springs. The passenger, who shot video of the incident, is being charged with interfering with official police duties. Photo credit: Matty Ring/Wikimedia Commons.
May 6, 2015

DENVER - The ACLU of Colorado announced Tuesday that it will represent two African-American men who were pulled over, removed from their vehicle, handcuffed, searched and detained at gunpoint by Colorado Springs police over a cracked windshield.

As his brother was being removed from the car, Ryan Brown recorded video of the incident on his phone. Mark Silverstein, legal director of ACLU-Colorado, said that what Ryan and Benjamin Brown experienced is all too familiar for young people of color.

"No reasonable person could watch this video of this traffic stop and say that two young white men would have been treated the same way," he said.

Silverstein said Ryan Brown's repeated requests for the officers to identify the reason for the stop were ignored, despite official police department policy.

Lt. Catherine Buckley, the Colorado Springs Police public information officer, said she has watched the video but added that since the incident is part of an ongoing internal affairs investigation, it would be premature to comment.

According to Silverstein, the two brothers were within a block of their home when they were stopped. Shortly after pulling the car over, an officer opened the driver's door and, pointing his taser at Benjamin Brown, demanded that he exit the vehicle. The video shows Ryan Brown, the passenger, being dragged from the car, forced to the ground and handcuffed, all at gunpoint. He now faces a criminal charge for "interfering with official police duties."

"Video recordings help to level the playing field," Silverstein said. "More and more people are recognizing that police do sometimes overstep the bounds of lawful authority and there's video record to show that that's what's happening."

ACLU-Colorado actively supported House Bill 1290, which would be the first state law in the nation to affirmatively declare a right to record police officers. The bill cleared the House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by the governor.

The video is online at youtube.com. House Bill 1290 is at leg.state.co.us.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO