In 2014, an ordinary citizen recorded several Denver police officers after they removed a man from an automobile. The clip shows police officers holding the man down while another officer repeatedly struck the man in the head. It also depicts an officer grabbing a pregnant woman by the leg, causing her to fall.
Police brutality in Colorado and other states is nothing new, unfortunately. What happened after the Denver incident is unusual and could threaten our constitutional rights under the First Amendment.
The immediate aftermath
When the citizen ceased filming, the officers demanded to see the recording, making thinly veiled threats to arrest him if he refused. The police rifled through the device without a warrant or permission, but the video seemed to have vanished. The citizen who did the filming found the footage later and sent a copy to a news station, which aired the altercation. He also filed a lawsuit against the involved officers.
The outcome of the case
At first, the citizen was partially successful with his suit, but a court of appeals dismissed the case. The court ruled that the officers deserve “qualified immunity,” which shields government employees from legal liability. The ruling has private citizens (and journalists) concerned that video footage may no longer be allowed to help victims of injustice prove misconduct or brutality.
What does all this mean for victims?
Video footage played a significant role in the outcome of many high-profile police brutality cases in recent years. If recordings of officers engaged in misconduct no longer carry weight in a court, police brutality victims have lost a powerful tool.
If you have suffered brutality or misconduct by Colorado police officers, do not give up. You can improve your odds of resolving your situation by learning more about police misconduct and your legal options.