Denver police defends officers’ actions in taking blankets from homeless protesters

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DENVER — The Denver Police Department defended the actions of its officers in clearing homeless camps after video showed some taking blankets and tents in freezing temperatures.

Last weekend, Mayor Michael Hancock announced he was adjusting the enforcement of the city’s unauthorized camping ordinance for the cold weather, saying police should not take camping equipment.

The move came after the ACLU sent a letter to police and the mayor asking them to stop taking blankets from homeless people.

Video surfaced online of police taking the items from individuals when temperatures were below freezing.

But on Thursday, police released a statement saying the removal of blankets were from people “illegally” camping on the public right-of-way in front of the Denver City and County Building while protesting.

“In both cases, officers on scene offered services and shelter to those individuals,” the statement said. “After they refused the police officers’ assistance, the individuals were advised that they were violating the law and needed to move.

“After several warnings, during an approximate four-hour period outside of the Denver City and County Building, three protesters chose to remain and were therefore cited. Officers collected items as evidence of the violations.”

The full statement from the Denver Police Department:

The Denver Police Department appreciates the community’s concern regarding the video of officers removing blankets from people camped out in front of the Denver City and County Building on November 29, and the Department would like to clarify the situation shown in the video. Overall, the goal of the City is to provide and connect people with services and shelter, of which there is an adequate amount, for those living on the streets.

Since January 1, 2016, Denver Police contacted more than 4,700 people related to unauthorized camping, and only nine unauthorized camping citations were issued as a last resort. The Denver Police Department values all our residents and will continue to help those who need it.

The situation in the video occurred after individuals chose to illegally camp on the public right-of-way outside of the Denver City and County Building as a means of protest after being cited for unauthorized camping at a separate location. In both cases, officers on scene offered services and shelter to those individuals,” the statement said. “After they refused the police officers’ assistance, the individuals were advised that they were violating the law and needed to move. After several warnings, during an approximate four-hour period outside of the Denver City and County Building, three protesters chose to remain and were therefore cited. Officers collected items as evidence of the violations.

Every day, Denver Police officers contact members of our homeless population to check on their well-being and offer them services, such as transportation to shelters, mental health services, etc. During these exchanges, Denver Police officers are not taking blankets and personal items from them, but rather providing assistance and information on services.

 

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