APD settles police misconduct claims with two men

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AURORA | The Aurora Police Department will pay $75,000 to two men involved in separate incidents as part of a settlement of accusations of officer misconduct, according to officials from the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union, which acted on the men’s behalf.

Omar Hassan, left, filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Aurora police of kicking him out of a coffee shop for no reason. Photo Courtesy American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

The APD will pay $40,000 to Omar Hassan, who accused two officers of forcibly removing him from a Caribou Coffee sop on East Colfax Avenue in March 2016 after he bought a muffin there. Hassan said the officers told him his “kind of business is not welcome here” before forcibly removing him. According to a sworn statement from a manager, no employees had a problem with Hassan or asked him to leave, and Hassan wasn’t charged with a crime.

The APD will also pay $35,000 to, Dwight Crews, who was arrested in November 2015 at his home in Aurora after his stepdaughter’s husband called police and said Crews assaulted him. Crews, who is disabled because injuries sustained in a car accident, stepped outside of his home and two Aurora police officers, Steven Gerdjikian and Ryan Marker, threw him to the ground. His lawsuit claimed Crews was calm and cooperative and posed no threat and the two officers who didn’t have an arrest warrant.

Dwight Crews from an Aurora Police body cam video screenshot.

City officials said the settlement avoids the cost of prolonged litigation.

Both lawsuits were filed on behalf of Hassan and Crews by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

“The city disputed and still disputes the ACLU’s version of events in both cases, but the settlements saved the taxpayers thousands of dollars,” said Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman. “We confidently stand behind our officers and their actions to maintain public safety.”

But the ACLU say the cases should be troubling for taxpayers.

“These settlements add to a multi-year trend of taxpayers footing the bill, in case after case, as Aurora police officers are repeatedly sued for violating the constitutional rights of people of color,” said Mark Silverstein, Colorado ACLU’s Legal Director, in a statement. “How many lawsuits will it take?  The Aurora Police Department needs to do some serious self-examination regarding how its officers respond to persons of color, and the city must establish an independent system of accountability. The alternative is a further decline in community trust, more incidents, and more lawsuits.”

Last year the city paid $110,000 to settle an ACLU case involving Darsean Kelley, a young black man who was tased in the back as he said, “I know my rights.”

“It is important for the public to understand that our officers are trained to follow proven safety protocols which are applied based on the information provided to them from the caller via the 911 system and modified as they proceed with the call,” Hyman said of the settlement. “They do this not only for their own safety, but also for the safety of the public at large. Aurora is dedicated to protecting life and property, as well as maintaining order, while assuring fair and equal treatment to everyone. Aurora is also dedicated to protecting taxpayer monies and litigation is expensive. This was the driving factor in settling these cases.”