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Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Griego: Misunderstanding with cop leaves bad taste - The Denver Post

Griego: Misunderstanding with cop leaves bad taste - The Denver Post

I have a neighbor named Adam. He lives a couple doors down in a house he turned into a showcase. He also has a four-unit apartment building a block away. I've never had a neighbor who works so hard at being neighborly. He is the guy who helps you design your garden and bakes extra batches of pumpkin bread to deliver, still warm, around the block. He's the guy you tell you're going to be out of town and can he please watch the house.

I offer this background so you know up front where my bias lies.

A couple of Saturdays ago, when it was still gorgeous out, Adam was stopped by a police officer as he was pushing a wheelbarrow of gardening tools from his house to the apartments.

She doesn't know Adam from, well, Adam. She gets out of her vehicle, asks him where he's going. Right up here, he says, to work in my garden. She says there's been a lot of burglaries in the neighborhood, asks him why he has a wheelbarrow full of tools. She asks his name. He repeats that he is going to work in his garden and asks why she needs his name.

(Mistake No. 1, the peanut gallery chimes. Never question a cop.) The next thing you know, she's ordering him to turn around. He's asking her why. She's saying, I told you about the break-ins, turn around, put your hands behind your back.

She brings his hands up to his head, tells him to lace his fingers and spread his legs. She kicks his feet apart. He's humiliated now, protesting that he hasn't done anything wrong and any neighbor can vouch for him. But she's calling for backup, patting him down, retrieving his wallet, ordering him to sit down and give her his identification, which does not have his current address on it. She tells him he has two years to get a new license after moving.

She'll run his information and find nothing. A backup officer will arrive. Neighbors will vouch for Adam. The two officers will tell him he can go, but not before Adam, a dark-skinned, black-haired Latino from Texas, says he thinks this is racial. Not before the police officer tells Adam that when he takes the police academy test, he can tell her how to do her job. He retorts, angry, that it doesn't take a lot of brainpower to pass the test and that he's filing a complaint. She asks him what he's going to write in the complaint. He asks whether he is free to go. She doesn't answer. He repeats his question several times before she says, yes, you can go.

"Have a nice day," she calls as he walks away.

A couple things. This is Adam's account, one he has described in a complaint to the Office of the Independent Monitor. The police officer will no doubt have a different recollection.

Adam just mailed his complaints and the Denver Police Department has not had time to look into it, but spokesman Sonny Jackson says, "Flip the script. What if he had been a burglar, and she didn't stop him?" He says it sounds like a missed opportunity between two people who have the same goal of bettering the neighborhood.

Second, there hasn't been a rash of burglaries in our neighborhood. The department's own statistics show that. Burglaries were down in 2010 over 2009. In December, there was a spike, which was true across town. In January, there were two burglaries. Does that prove the officer was racially profiling Adam? Can't prove it. Can't disprove it. That's the problem with racial profiling. All you need is a pretext.

Read more: Griego: Misunderstanding with cop leaves bad taste - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/griego/ci_17323755#ixzz1DWio7cWI
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