DENVER, CO The Denver police union is launching a protest of its own over what it says is an order requiring officers to leave their protective gear behind when working at ongoing demonstrations across the city.
In a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock and Police Chief Robert White, the Denver Police Protective Association said the order leaves officers at risk of serious injury.
Officers have been told to leave the gear behind “for fear that the officers will look intimidating and perhaps unwittingly escalate the intensity of the protests,” the letter said.
Ron Hackett, a Denver Police Department spokesman, said he was not sure what the exact order said about protective gear at protests. But, he said, “Officer safety is paramount for us. The last thing we want to do is jeopardize any officer.”
Protesters have taken to city streets almost every day since a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., chose not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man.
The Denver protests have included thousands of high school and middle school students, who have walked out of classes.
On Dec. 3, four Denver police bicycle officers were struck by a car as they escorted students from East High School during a march on West Colfax Avenue.
One officer, John Adsit, suffered serious injuries and remains hospitalized. The police union cited the accident in its letter.
Officers also have been called to monitor more hard-core protesters from the Anonymous and Occupy Denver groups who gather downtown at night. Several of those protesters have been arrested after trying to block roads.
Last weekend, protesters interrupted the city’s Parade of Lights.
“The intensity of the protests and the protesters continues to grow every day, both here and across the country — like the protest in California two days ago where two officers were injured when protesters threw bricks at them,” the letter said. “And every day, Denver’s police officers place themselves in the street to protect those involved and the property around them.”
Heavily armed police wearing body armor and helmets have been criticized by protesters, who say they are trying to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights.
The disagreement over how officers should respond has launched a national debate over whether police departments should receive decommissioned military equipment, including armored vehicles.
From The Denver Post