In this lawsuit against Colorado Springs police officers and the City of Colorado Springs, the ACLU of Colorado charged that two Black clients, Ryan and Benjamin Brown, were victims of the police department’s “custom and practice” of engaging in racially-biased policing and carrying out groundless, racially-motivated stops and searches.

The Brown brothers were driving just a block away from their home in a predominantly white neighborhood when they were pulled over by Colorado Springs police. 

A taser-wielding officer ordered Benjamin Brown, the driver, out of the car.  He was handcuffed, searched without cause, and detained in the back of a police vehicle, even though he had been cooperative, no weapons or contraband were found, and there was no evidence to suggest that he had been involved in a crime.

Ryan Brown began recording the encounter on his phone. His repeated requests for the officers to identify the reason for the stop were ignored.  Officers worked together to force him out of the car, push him to the ground face-down in the snow, search him, and handcuff him, all the while at gunpoint.

The officers dragging Ryan Brown out of the car said he was not under arrest and they were just checking him for weapons.   No weapons were found.  Officers grabbed Ryan’s phone and threw it in the snow.  They then cited Ryan for “obstruction.”

Ryan Brown immediately filed a citizen complaint, and ACLU lawyers won dismissal of the obstruction charge. 

Ryan received a brief boilerplate letter stating that police had conducted a “complete and thorough” investigation into the incident and concluded that the officers’ conduct was “justified, legal, and proper.”

The lawsuit asserts that Colorado Springs police have an illegal custom and practice of : “(1) engaging in racial profiling at the initial stop of individuals; (2) searching them without reasonable suspicion that they are armed or dangerous; and (3) unnecessarily detaining them for extended periods of time in an effort to build some basis for arrest.”

Update: In a settlement, Colorado Springs paid $212,000 to compensate the ACLU’s clients.  The police department also agreed to numerous improvements and revisions to its policies relating to pat-down searches and persons recording police activities.  I

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Case number

2015-02, 16-cv-02540,