Denver’s public safety director and police chief both say they will support an independent investigation into the city’s police department as officers face scrutiny for their tactics during recent protests for racial justice.
Earlier in the week, members of Denver’s City Council called for such an investigation amid complaints that law enforcement officers are targeting peaceful protesters, onlookers and journalists with pepper balls, chemical sprays and nonlethal projectiles.
Public safety Executive Director Murphy Robinson and police Chief Paul Pazen said in a joint letter to council members that they will work with the officer of independent monitor in its review of the agency.
“This has been an unprecedented event in our city,” they wrote in the letter dated June 5.“We believe it is important to thoroughly review and learn from these events to ensure we are partnering with and protecting the Denver community in the best way possible.”
For over a week, protests have taken place in Denver and cities across the nation as demonstrators protest systematic racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minnesota after a white police officer pressed a knee to his neck.
On some nights, the protests have turned violent during the evening hours and there’s been reports of property damage. Likewise, police have come under scrutiny for their use of force during the protests. One officer was fired for writing “Let’s start a riot” on social media. The police department has also opened an internal investigation after a video circulating online showed officers firing pepper balls at a man standing beside his car and shouting that his pregnant girlfriend was inside.
On Friday evening, a federal judge in Denver also ordered police to limit their use of chemical weapons and nonlethal projectiles on protestors, saying “the threat to physical safety and free speech outweighs the threat to property.”
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