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Crime and Courts

On 11th day of George Floyd protests, Denver police announce major use-of-force policy changes

Denver police, under pressure from federal courts and lawmakers, now must report when they point a firearm at a person

Denver Public Schools students march from the state capitol down East Colfax Avenue to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in City Park to emphasize the need for more black educators in schools in Denver, on June 7, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

On the 11th consecutive day of protests in Denver responding to the death of George Floyd after he was restrained by police in Minneapolis, the Denver Police Department on Sunday announced major changes to its own use-of-force policy.

Under pressure from demonstrators, lawmakers and the courts, the police department said that as of Sunday, officers must report to a supervisor any time they intentionally point a firearm at a person. The reports will be used to collect data and evaluate such incidents, the police department said in a news release Sunday.

The Denver Police Department Metro/SWAT unit also must activate body cameras when executing tactical operations.

And the department further clarified its “existing policy of not allowing chokeholds or carotid compression technique with no exceptions,” the news release said.

“We will continue to evaluate our policies with community input and make improvements as needed in the interest of public and officer safety,” Chief of Police Paul Pazen said in the release.

The department said the new policies were developed in collaboration with its Use of Force Committee and took into consideration recommendations from the Center for Policing Equity.

Floyd died May 25, after a police officer restrained him by holding a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes in an arrest that was documented by bystanders using their cell phone cameras. The videos sparked massive protests in Minneapolis that quickly spread to other cities, with demonstrators demanding a reckoning with police brutality and systemic racism.

A Denver Police Department officer fires pepper spray at a protester walking on East Colfax Avenue near the state Capitol during the third day of protests against police brutality on May 30, 2020. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

In Denver, daytime protests have been largely peaceful, but in the first days of the demonstrations, people clashed with police after dark. Police fired tear gas and pepper spray and used less lethal projectiles to disperse angry crowds

MORE: “It was completely unprovoked”: Protester shot in the face with pepper ball by Denver police demands accountability

On Friday night, U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson issued a sweeping ruling ordering police not to use less-lethal projectiles and chemical weaponss — such as tear gas and pepper spray — against peaceful protesters in Denver.

“The Denver Police Department has failed in its duty to police its own,” Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in his sweeping ruling.

Democrats in the Colorado legislature are also working on a bill that seeks to add more accountability to policing in the state. It would require strict racial data collection and reporting, mandate more body camera use and make it easier for people to sue officers for wrongdoing.

Sunday’s protest, led by members of the Denver Public Schools community, began around 10 a.m. and lasted well into the afternoon, with about 1,000 people marching from the Colorado Capitol up East Colfax Avenue to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in City Park. They followed in reverse the route of the annual Marade route marched each January in tribute to the fallen civil rights leader.

Rising Sun