Denver police officers handcuff Susan Greene

Denver police officers arrest journalist for taking photos

July 5, 2018

Susan Greene, the editor of the Colorado Independent, was handcuffed and detained after photographing a police interaction on July 5, 2018.

Greene told Freedom of the Press Foundation in an email that she was driving in downtown Denver when she saw a group of Denver police officers standing around a naked man seated on the sidewalk.

“I stopped to check out the scene because of a history of Denver uniformed safety officers hurting African American men in their custody and not offering medical help,” she said. “I was taking a few photos of the scene when an officer told me to stop. I told him I had a right to take photographs. He said I didn’t because HIPAA.”

Greene said that one of the officers, whom she identified as James Brooks, tried to intimidate her physically and stood close in front of her in an attempt to block her camera. When she then began taking photographs of Brooks, the officer responded with physical force.

Greene later wrote a first-person account of what happened for the Independent:

As it turns out, Officer Brooks didn’t like having his picture taken. After accusing me of blocking the door of an ambulance that had been called to the scene – toward which he had prodded me during our encounter – and saying something about me obstructing officers, he grabbed me and twisted my arm in ways that arms aren’t supposed to move. At some point in the blur, either he or Officer Adam Paulsen, badge No. 08049, locked one or maybe two pair of handcuffs on my wrists, tightly, and pushed me toward a nearby police car by grabbing my arms hard enough – and with a painful upward thrust – that I told them to stop hurting me. Their response: That I was hurting myself by resisting.

But I wasn’t resisting. Not even close.

I had heard from my work reporting on several excessive force cases troublesome accounts of police injuring arrestees, yet claiming they injured themselves. But to hear it first-hand, uttered obviously for the benefit of whoever might some day review the body-camera footage, was infuriating.

Greene: That time a Denver cop made up excuses to handcuff a reporter (Colorado Independent)

Greene wrote that the officers detained her in a police car for about 10 minutes before releasing her, “apparently at the urging of someone on the other end of [Brooks’] cell phone.”

The Denver Police Department opened an internal investigation into the incident. On August 23, Greene reported that she received a call from Denver district attorney Beth McGann, who told Greene that her office could not bring charges against officer Brooks for either assault or false imprisonment.

On August 28, the Denver Police Department finally released video footage of the incident taken from the body cameras worn by officers Paulsen and Brooks.

“This is protected by HIPAA,” Paulsen tells Greene in the video. “You can’t record.”

“There’s also a First Amendment,” Greene responds. “Have you heard of it?”

“That doesn’t supersede HIPAA,” Paulsen says. “Step away, or you’ll be arrested for interference.”

Brooks then grabs Greene and twists her arm behind her back, and Paulsen hands him handcuffs.

“Stand up straight, let’s act like a lady,” Paulsen tells Greene as he handcuffs her.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Greene asks. “Act like a lady?”

“Nope,” Brooks says, as Paulsen finishes locking the cuffs. “There you go. Now you can go to jail.”

“Stop, you’re hurting me!” Greene yells as the officers forcibly escort her to a police car.

“No, we’re not,” one of the officers says. “Then walk, walk normal, stop resisting.”

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