Demonstrators march from the State Capitol to nearby Civic Center Park during a protest over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who was died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The department has “failed in its duty to police its own,” Denver Federal Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled Friday.
Jackson ruled tear gas, pepper spray, and pepper balls and rubber bullets can only be used if approved by commanding officers with the rank of captain or above and only “authorizes such use of force in response to specific acts of violence or destruction of property that the commanding officer has personally witnessed,” Fox 31 Denver reported.
The city of Denver moved in court Saturday to amend the temporary restraining order to include lieutenants, according to the station. The order expires in 14 days.
Jackson issued the order in a lawsuit brought by four protesters accusing police of violating their constitutional rights during a recent protest over the death of Floyd, who died in police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for more than eights minutes.
The judge said he reviewed video of numerous incidents “in which officers used pepper-spray on individual demonstrators who appeared to be standing peacefully, some of whom were speaking to or yelling at officers, none of whom appeared to be engaging in violence or destructive behavior,” ABC 7 Denver reported.
The ruling cites instances of Denver police targeting journalists and protesters, as well as medics, according to the station.
The station also quoted Jackson as writing that while he does not agree with those who’ve used the protest as an excuse to commit crimes, “property damage is a small price to pay for constitutional rights — especially the constitutional right of the public to speak against widespread injustice.”
“If a store’s windows must be broken to prevent a protestor’s facial bones from being broken or eye being permanently damaged, that is more than a fair trade,” he said. “If a building must be graffiti-ed to prevent the suppression of free speech, that is a fair trade. The threat to physical safety and free speech outweighs the threat to property,” Jackson wrote.