A Proven Criminal Defense Team

Jury awards protesters $14 million for abuse by police

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2022 | Firm News |

On March 25, a federal court jury awarded $14 million to 12 activists who were peacefully protesting the murder of George Floyd. The activists sued the Denver Police Department, claiming officers used excessive force during protests in 2020. The city of Denver had already settled several other civil complaints out of court over the police response, but this federal case was the first to go to trial. The trial held in U.S. District Court in Denver took three weeks, with the jury delivering the verdict in just three hours.

The lawsuit revolved around the police department’s use of tear gas, plastic bullets, flash-bang grenades and other “less-than-lethal” methods that a senior officer approved in response to specific types of violence by protesters. The protesters alleged that the police engaged in heavy-handed riot control without warning protesters or telling them to disperse.

New policies for DPD

The aftermath of the officers’ response led to changes in department policy. These were:

  • More officer training on crowd management
  • Eliminating some of the non-lethal weapons that caused severe injury
  • New rules for the use of pepper spray

The Department of Public Safety, which oversees the police department, defended the officers’ actions, citing the unprecedented scope of the protests and officers reacting to vandalism of the federal court building and museum.

Victim gets $3 million

The injured victims included a man who was hit in the head by a projectile from a police shotgun. He suffered a broken jaw, a cracked skull, bleeding on the brain, and two fractured spinal discs. The man received $3 million, which was the largest portion of the award.

No one is above the law

These protests and the police response took place during extraordinarily challenging times. Still, it is essential to remember that police officers enforce the law, but they are not above the law. They cannot violate citizens’ inalienable rights, including free speech and the freedom to assemble.