DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says the video that shows police officers taking blankets from protesters camped outside in front of city hall is “not a widespread practice.”
The American Civil Liberties Union posted video on Facebook that shows Denver police officers confiscating blankets from people who were camped out in 20 degree weather.
Hancock appeared on CBS4 Morning News to discuss the practice by the police department.
“This is not a widespread practice by the police department. The video clip that you just ran was actually three individuals who were protesting and setting up camp in front of city hall. And after the police asked them to move, they did not, they were cited and their equipment was taken as evidence. But this is not a widespread practice throughout the city and we wanted to make sure that it didn’t go any further and that people understand this is not how we want to operate during these frigid temperatures.”
Police have issued nine citations to seven people in two weeks.
Hancock also talked about the difficult position police officers must take regardless of the weather or situation.
“The reality is the officers are doing their jobs no matter who they’re in contact with. If they have to cite someone, they have to take the evidence so that we can execute actual proceedings around that, so, this is normal practice but at the end of the day, in regards to our homeless, when it’s this frigid outside, we want to make sure that the ability to exercise discretion and judgement. And we’re going to help them by making sure they know there are other ways to take that evidence or at least take pictures of the evidence and then move forward with judicial proceedings.”
This comes after a backlash and lawsuit filed against the City of Denver when officers conducted homeless “sweeps” in Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood earlier this year.
The City of Denver would like the homeless to move into shelters. Hancock said thousands of people seek shelter indoors overnight but there are still beds available to those who want help.
“It’s against the law in the City of Denver to have encumbrances on our sidewalks. It’s unhealthy, it’s unsafe, and it’s unsanitary to allow these encampments to occur in our city,” said Hancock.
On Saturday, Hancock said city enforcement of its unauthorized camping ordinance is being suspended through April because the city has a responsibility to protect residents. Hancock says he does not want people to lose their lives because of the ordinance.
“We do everything that we can. Our objective is to get people indoors, safely, particularly in these frigid temperatures and to make sure that they are safer alternatives for individuals. We shelter 3,000 people a night. We still have beds available for men and women. We want to make sure people understand that it’s healthier, safer and more sanitary to move indoors but we will not allow encumbrances on our sidewalks because it’s unsafe for everyone.”