ACLU Sues Denver Over Mistaken Arrests

Even though I’m still mad at Colorado’s ACLU for supporting Referendum C, which clearly lies outside the organization’s mandate, once in a while the group reminds me that, sometimes, it does crucial work on behalf of liberty. Consider today’s media release:

ACLU sues Denver on behalf of five innocent victims of “mistaken identity” arrests

August 11, 2008

CONTACT: Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director…

On behalf of five clients, the ACLU of Colorado filed suit today against the City and County of Denver and various Denver law enforcement officers, charging that in each case, “recklessly sloppy police work” resulted in the innocent plaintiff’s arrest and imprisonment—as long as 26 days in one case—for crimes with which they had no connection whatsoever.

The lawsuit describes the ACLU clients as victims of “mistaken identity” arrests—in each case, Denver law enforcement officers had legal grounds to arrest a particular suspect for an offense, but instead they arrested or caused the arrest of one of the ACLU’s innocent clients. In each case, the ACLU asserts, officers deliberately ignored facts that demonstrated that they were arresting or causing the arrest of the wrong person.

In four cases, the ACLU’s clients were arrested on a warrant that authorized the arrest of a entirely different person. After any arrest, Colorado law requires a prompt appearance before a judge, but in almost every case, the ACLU’s clients were denied that right, preventing them from explaining to the court that they were not the person named in the arrest warrant. Similarly, Denver Sheriff Department deputies at the jail refused to investigate obvious red flags and repeated complaints from Plaintiffs and their family that they were locking up the wrong person.

The lawsuit asserts that Denver policymakers have knowingly tolerated and turned a blind eye to an unjustifiable risk and frequency of such “mistaken identity” arrests. The ACLU contends that Denver officials failed to adopt the necessary policies, procedures, supervision and training that would reduce or eliminate the risk of such “mistaken identity” arrests. The ACLU also cites Denver’s failure to adopt necessary policies to detect and promptly correct such “mistaken identity” arrests when they occur, and its failure to ensure that arrested persons were brought promptly before a court.

The suit also asserts that the ACLU clients and other victims of “mistaken identity” arrests attempted to file complaints with Denver officials after their arrest, but the complaints were rebuffed or ignored.

Read rest of the release details the stories of five people who were mistakenly arrested. Nice job, Silverstein. It will be very interesting indeed to learn what becomes of this.