July 14, 2006
The American Civil Liberties Union is asking for a quick ruling in a standoff with the Colorado Springs Police Department over an Internal Affairs investigation report.
In a court filing Thursday, the ACLU of Colorado took issue with the city’s claim that Internal Affairs files are private under an open-records exemption for personnel matters. Rather, the ACLU argued, the files should be considered criminal justice records, which are subject to disclosure. The organization asked for a hearing “at the earliest practical time” for the city to show why the records should be kept secret. The ACLU said it plans to seek more Internal Affairs files after receiving “additional reports of alleged police misconduct that have been the subject of (IA) investigations.” The case involves a July 2, 2005, traffic stop in south Colorado Springs made by officers K.D. Hardy and Jackson Andrews. Delvikio Faulkner, 26, a passenger in the vehicle, reportedly gave police a false name and made a sudden movement. Hardy, who worked for the department from March 1997 to February 2006, said in his report that he struck Faulkner several times with a metal flashlight as he was trying to pull away. Andrews said in his account that Hardy struck Faulkner after he stopped trying to flee. Faulkner, who required seven staples at the hospital to close the wounds, contacted the ACLU a few months ago. After the ACLU demanded the records, the city filed a lawsuit in June asking a district judge to decide if the records should be released. Police spokesman Lt. Rafael Cintron said he couldn’t comment on the case because of the pending litigation. Cintron said the department thoroughly investigates complaints against officers. “It’s an accountability issue,” he said. “We’re holding the officers accountable to the department and holding the department accountable to the citizens.” Records show that from 2002 through 2005, eight of 251 allegations of excessive force were upheld, resulting in punishment that could range from a verbal reprimand to termination. But Cintron cited privacy laws in refusing to release details in specific cases. He couldn’t explain why brutality claims increased from 47 in 2002 to 84 in 2005. Of those, two were validated in 2002, three in 2003, none in 2004 and three last year. Cintron said the numbers are inflated by complaints filed by people attempting to beat a criminal charge by falsely accusing officers of wrongdoing. Internal Affairs Lt. Arthur Sapp said there is no standard for how many excessive force complaints a department can expect to receive or find to be legitimate. Cintron said officials monitor complaints to spot trends that signal a need for more training or lineup briefings. For example, when the department got a lot of complaints about officers putting handcuffs on too tightly, officers were briefed about the proper use of handcuffs. Sapp said citizens whose complaints are validated are notified by letter or phone of the outcome.