DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Police will no longer enforce the city’s Aggressive Panhandling Ordinance following a ruling from a federal judge in Grand Junction earlier this week.
“Denver, to its credit, got out in front of that and has already proactively ordered that the panhandling ordinance be suspended while the city attorney considers revisions,” said Mark Silverstein, the American Civil Liberties Union Colorado Legal Director.
The federal suit dates back to February 2014 when the City of Grand Junction enacted a panhandling law similar to the one approved by Denver. The ACLU argued panhandling was unfairly separated from other types of charity.
“This court believes that panhandling carries a message. Often a request for money conveys conditions of poverty, homelessness and unemployment as well as a lack of access to medical care, reentry services for person convicted of crimes and mental health support for veterans. The city’s attempt to regulate this message is an attempt to restrain the expression of conditions of poverty to other citizens,” wrote Judge Christine Arguello in her decision for the case.
“We’ve alleged that it violates the First Amendment rights to people who would like to peacefully ask for charity in public places,” said Silverstein. “It’s a decision that’s going to have ramifications throughout Colorado and we plan to be asking City Attorney’s all over the state to review their ordinances, and I think almost all of them will need to be repealed or dramatically amended.”
Denver wrote a total of 348 tickets for panhandling-related issues in 2014 and 178 through August 2015.
Officers were issued a training bulletin on October 1 regarding the panhandling ordinance.
“Officers can still address safety concerns through other ordinances,” said Doug Schepman with the Denver Police Department.
The end of the DPD Training Bulletin states, “Please note that while enforcement of the Aggressive Panhandling ordinance is being suspended, City Council is considering formal amendments to the ordinance to bring the law into compliance with recent court rulings. We anticipate another training bulletin to issue when the ordinance amendments are adopted to further clarify this issue.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.