05/12/2011 04:43 pm ET | Updated Jul 12, 2011

Marvin Booker's Death Prompts ACLU To Call For Investigation By DOJ

The ACLU is citing seven cases since 2004 where police brutality has cost the city of Denver hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements to call for the Department of Justice to investigate Denver Law Enforcement.

ACLU Executive Director C. Ray Drew said in a press release:

Law enforcement exists to serve and protect the public, yet the people of Denver, especially people of color, fear the police. Police departments across the nation have had to clean up their forces and create a new culture of honesty and service. Why aren’t we doing that in Denver?

The call for an investigation led by the ACLU, the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, NAACP's Denver branch, the family of Marvin L. Booker and their attorneys, comes after Public Safety Manager Charles Garcia's decision not to punish five deputies involved in Booker's death.

ACLU Communications Director Rosemary Harris Lytle told HuffPost:

The Public Safety Manager's decision that Marvin Booker's death happened according to policy was wrong. If there's a policy to allow a citizen to be killed while in police custody, that's a bad policy. We're saying look at the totality of all the cases of police brutality, because this isn't policy that keeps citizens safe.

Booker was an African American homeless street preacher who was arrested last July for possessing drug paraphernalia. In the processing area, Booker was reaching for his shoes--though an officer asked him not to--and was put in a chokehold, sat on and Tasered. Inmates say Booker was afterward dropped face first into a holding cell at Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center. During the incident Booker, 56, died and the coroner ruled his death a homicide.

A video tape showing the incident was released to the public after being shown to Booker's family, on the same day it was announced that the five deputies involved would not be punished.


"The majority of law enforcement officers are good, honest officers who are trying to do the right thing," Drew said. "But a police department that can’t rid itself of rogue cops is by its own definition, a bad police force."

The ACLU also cites the beating of Alex Landau, 19 year-old African American college student who was pulled over for making an illegal left turn--causing one of the largest payouts in city history and totaling $795,000.

That same year then-Mayor John Hickenlooper asked the FBI to look into the beating of Michael DeHerrera, who was beaten when using his cell phone to inform his father, a Pueblo police officer, that Denver police were assaulting his friend. DeHerrera suffered head trauma and facial contusions. The officers were fired and the lawsuit settled for over $17,000.


ACLU's Legal Director Mark Silverstein says efforts to call for the federal investigation will begin immediately with a letter to the Department of Justice.