DENVER (CBS4) – A call is being made for officers to end community policing in Denver schools after an incident on April 24 at a charter school in downtown Denver.
There are reports that police officers drew their guns after entering Rise Up Community School on Broadway to look for a suspect in an attempted first-degree murder case. Rise Up is a second chance for students who have not done well with their original place of learning.
Denver’s Department of Public Safety has now launched an administrative investigation into the matter. Troy Riggs, the department’s executive director, said he has heard the concerns from the community about it.
Riggs released this statement to CBS4: “I have heard the concerns from the community and Independent Monitor regarding the incident that occurred at RiseUp Community School and an administration investigation was opened this morning to review the incident.”
Police came to the school looking for a student who was wanted for attempted first-degree murder. Lucas Ketzer, the school’s principal, said after being told the student wasn’t there, police proceeded into the school anyway without a search warrant. Police maintain a warrant was not necessary.
Ketzer told CBS4 the students and teachers were subjected to some heavy-handed tactics and some felt unsafe and uneasy.
“I want folks that acted inappropriately to be held accountable. I want DPD to conduct an investigation. I want DPS to stand with us — which they have — to support our community and our students,” Ketzer said.
Marquise Tom was standing outside the school during the lunch period that day when police approached him.
He told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger, “They referred to me as a suspect because I had tattoos or the way I dressed.”
He said his tattoos show the story of his life. The police went inside and asked for the wanted student.
Ketzer says he explained the student was not there, but police then went up to a teacher.
“She said, ‘When you get that warrant, you can come back and search my room.’ They came in and searched any way,” said Ketzer.
He says he was given the impression no warrant was necessary because of an imminent danger.
“The teacher went out back door. When she opened the back door three DPD officers had their guns drawn on her,” said Ketzer.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Denver Police Department said it believed the suspect posed a possible threat and that they had confirmation from a staff member that the suspect was inside the school. They also said they didn’t draw their weapons at any time inside the school.
Officials with Denver Public Schools are scheduled to meet with the public Thursday evening, and the search at Rise Up School is expected to be one of the topics that gets discussed.
As a result of the search, leaders of the Denver community group Padres & Jóvenes Unidos say they want DPS to consider ending school policing and forming a new security team overseen by the school district.
“It was just crazy that day because there’s some students that don’t want to come to this school any more since that happened,” Ketzer said.
The Denver Public School District also released a statement this week that read in part:
“As a diverse and inclusive school district, we are deeply aware that experiences with the perception of law enforcement have a profound impact on our city, particularly in our communities of color.”
CBS4’s Rick Sallinger contributed to this report. He is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.