DENVER – Denver’s police department said Friday it has launched an internal investigation into the detention of a journalist who was photographing officers as they tended to a man sitting naked on a downtown sidewalk.
The probe comes after a report by Susan Greene, editor of The Colorado Independent, in which she said she was handcuffed and put into a patrol car Thursday after refusing an officer’s orders to stop shooting photos of officers standing around the man, who had been handcuffed.
Greene said a police officer ignored her assertions that she had a First Amendment right to take photos on a public sidewalk. Colorado law protects the public’s right to record the actions of peace officers.
She said she was released after the officer consulted with someone on his cellphone.
A police statement issued Friday said officers had summoned an ambulance while tending to “a person in crisis” near the state Capitol building when “a bystander began taking pictures of the incident.”
“Officers confronted the bystander and detained her until after the person was transported to the hospital,” according to a statement released by Jay Casillas, a department spokesman.
The statement didn’t refer to Greene by name. But it did say that the department had opened an internal affairs investigation in which the Office of the Independent Monitor, a civilian oversight agency for Denver’s police and sheriff departments, will be involved.
Amber Miller, a spokeswoman for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, said the city takes seriously “the importance of the First Amendment, and Denver is not about arresting journalists who are doing their job. That said, it will be important not to prejudge the situation until the internal investigation that is underway is completed.”
Greene said she was driving when she spotted the scene, pulled over and began to shoot pictures. As she was being pushed toward the police car, she said she complained the officers were hurting her – and that they said she was hurting herself by resisting.
Greene said a police sergeant later assured her he would look into the incident and ensure evidence was preserved for review. She also filed formal requests under the Colorado Open Records Act for records both about the incident and about what happened with the unidentified man on the sidewalk, she said.
Greene worked at newspapers in California and Nevada before joining The Denver Post as a reporter and columnist. She and a Post colleague were finalists for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting about the destruction of DNA evidence in criminal cases. She joined the Independent in 2013.