Police Body Camera Video Prompts ACLU Lawsuit

By Karen Morfitt

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 60-year-old Dwight Crews Monday against the Aurora Police Department.

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Dwight Crews (credit: CBS)

According to the lawsuit, crews stepped in to stop Crews’ stepdaughter from being attacked by her husband in Nov. 2015.

The husband then called Aurora police and claimed that Crews had assaulted him and that Crews might have a gun inside his house.

A body camera worn by one of the officers was rolling during the arrest. Police say it shows appropriate force, while Crews and the ACLU believe it’s evidence of an unlawful arrest.

“They already knew what they were going to do,” Crews said.

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Dashcam video of Dwight Crews’ arrest. (credit: Aurora Police

The two officers named in the suit began knocking on his front door at around 2 a.m. While waiting for a response, police are seen on the video shining flashlights through the windows while ordering Crews to come outside.

“You’re going to get a warrant for your arrest if you don’t come down here to get this resolved,” one of the officers said.

Crews, who says he was on the third floor watching television, eventually heard the officers’ banging and came to the door.

Mark Silverstein, the legal director for the ACLU, says the officers, who had no warrant, ordered him to come outside.

“They don’t have the right to do that because they were essentially arresting him and to arrest him inside his home they need a warrant,” he said.

Crews stepped out onto the front porch without any information as to why the police are there. While being searched he tells officers his cat is escaping from inside the home.

“I pointed says ‘can I get my cat?’ and that is when I was thrown to the ground. I was not resisting arrest,” Crews said.

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Dashcam video of Dwight Crews’ arrest. (credit: Aurora Police

He was taken into custody and charged with resisting arrest, charges that were ultimately dismissed by a judge.

“This case adds to a disturbing string of incidents in which Aurora police have abused and violated the Constitutional rights of people of color,” said Silverstein. “Until Aurora improves police transparency and accountability, the victims have no choice but to seek justice in the courts.”

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CBS4’s Karen Morfitt interviews Dwight Crews. (credit: CBS)

In July, Aurora paid $110,000 to settle claims brought by ACLU of Colorado on behalf of Darsean Kelley, a young black man who was tased in the back as he said, “I know my rights.”

In September, ACLU of Colorado sued on behalf of Omar Hassan, a black man who Aurora police forcibly removed from a coffee shop after telling him “your kind of business is not welcome here.”

Crews is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be decided by a jury.

The Aurora police department issued their own statement in response to the ACLU:

“The Aurora Police Department has recently been made aware of a lawsuit filed against two of our officers by Dwight Crews, an individual being represented by the ACLU of Colorado and a private law firm. The alleged incident took place nearly two years ago on November 14, 2015 at an Aurora residence. Mr. Crews never filed a complaint with the Aurora Police Department and the City of Aurora only became aware of his accusations after his attorneys sent a letter of demand to the City on October 30, 2017.

The Aurora Police Department takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and officers are required to maintain the high standard of conduct that is expected from members of our community. In addition, the Aurora Police Department strives for accountability of its officers and works hard within the community to promote transparency. This incident happened in November 2015, eight months after the appointment of Chief Metz. Under his leadership, the Aurora Police Department has undergone organizational changes specifically to foster transparency and trust in the community. One of the changes directly affected the manner in which complaints are received and handled via the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) and how use-of-force incidents are investigated, documented and reviewed by a Force Review Board (FRB).

With regard to this incident, which was captured on a body-worn camera, a use-of-force investigation was conducted by a supervisor, pursuant to the policy in effect two years ago, and the officers were found to have acted appropriately.

Due to active civil litigation, the Aurora Police Department is unable to comment any further on the matter at this time.

Please click on the link below to view APD’s ‘Initiatives for Enhancing Community Relations.” This document details the Aurora Police Department’s efforts which are aimed at reaffirming a culture of Police accountability and promoting internal legitimacy.”

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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