COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The American Civil Liberties Union said Colorado Springs police handcuffed two brothers in March 2015 because they were driving while black.
The law enforcement agency serving Colorado’s second-largest city is facing a federal civil rights lawsuit over the encounter.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Denver U.S. District Court, called the traffic stop a clear case of racial profiling. At the center of the controversy is cellphone video shot by one of the two men in the car.
“A police officer has pulled us over for no reason,” Ryan Brown said in the 2015 recording. “I’ve got this on camera.”
Brown was in the passenger seat of a car driven by his brother at the time of the traffic stop.
Officers can be seen with weapons drawn detaining the men before searching the vehicle. Eventually, the video shows Brown being thrown to the ground.
The traffic stop ended up resulting in a citation for a cracked window.
“I don’t know how I would’ve responded either if someone had a gun drawn at me,” Denver Urban League CEO Sean Bradley said.
Bradley said police should have explained why they were being pulled over from the start. A tussle between Brown and the officers originally led to an obstruction charge against Brown, but has since been thrown out.
ACLU attorney Mark Silverstein is representing the men.
“What happened to those two young African-American men would not have happened if they were, instead, two young white men,” Silverstein said.
A police internal investigation after the encounter found the officers’ actions were legal, justified and proper.
Standing by the officers in these types of situations is a cultural issue plaguing police departments across the country, Bradley said.
“There has to be some cultural competency measures in place so that police can understand how to relate to people who don’t look like them,” Bradley said.
The lawsuit claims Colorado Springs officers stop African-American men 161 percent more often than expected based on the city’s population.
Colorado Springs officials said they had not received the lawsuit as of late Wednesday. Leaders from the police department and an association representing the officers said they will not comment on a pending lawsuit.
Once served with the lawsuit, the city will have 20 days to answer to the allegations.