Denver police tell journalist to ‘act like a lady’ as they handcuff her for taking a picture

Susan Greene, editor of The Colorado Independent, was detained for ‘interference'.

Toyin Owoseje
Thursday 30 August 2018 16:17 BST
Police officer tells female journalist to 'act like a lady'

A journalist was handcuffed and told to “act like a lady” by Denver police while trying to document a black man in crisis.

Bodycam footage released on 29 August shows the moment Susan Greene, editor of The Colorado Independent, was detained for ‘interfering’ as officers tended to a man sitting on the pavement naked except for a white sheet.

It captures the reporter being singled out by two male police officers who tower over her as they order her to stop trying to record on her mobile phone as the situation unfolds on a street near the Colorado State Capitol on the afternoon of 5 July.

She is blocked by one officer who informs her that she cannot record the scene because it violates the man’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rights, which outlines an individual’s rights to medical privacy.

When Ms Greene defends her First Amendment right, he advises that it “doesn't supersede HIPAA”.

After she moves her camera’s focus to the officer’s badge, she is handcuffed and told by another officer to “stand up” straight and "act like a lady".

“Are you f***ing kidding me?” Ms Greene responds. “Act like a lady?”

“There you go,” the police officer says. “Now you can go to jail.”

Ms Greene was held in a police car for about 12 minutes before being freed.

Following her release, she detailed the incident in an article published in her newspaper, contextualising her interest and citing “Denver’s history of uniformed officers harassing, hurting or killing folks, sometimes without offering them medical help.”

She added that it “stems partly from the fact that Denver sheriff deputies stood around the limp, lifeless body of Marvin Booker, a homeless, black street preacher after they killed him in Denver’s jail in 2010.”

The video has since gone viral, prompting a strong response from the online community.

While many rushed to her defence, others claim she was the aggressor.

“Cops need to be punished for not knowing the law and violating civil rights,” one commenter insisted.

Another wrote: "Completely unprofessional and unnecessary. And for anyone who starts with the BS that I'm not a cop and I don't know how hard it is, I was a cop in Brooklyn (NSU 14 and 84th Pct.) in the mid 80's and there was no reason to do what he did."

A third commenter said: “The police officer was either misinformed or lied, so he should be suspended without pay for a while. The Journalist acted like my 1 year old son and became childish and hard-headed by trying to do whatever anyway.”

The District Attorney’s office does not plan to press charges against the officers involved, saying in a statement that "there is insufficient evidence to charge and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer’s conduct constituted criminal offences".

Ms Greene's lawyer, Mari Newman, said the officers needed to be held accountable. "It should not always be up to the public to hold Denver law enforcement accountable when they use excessive force and violate the law," she said.

Margaux Ewen, the North America bureau director of Reporters Without Borders, condemned the treatment of Ms Greene. "Journalists must be free to do their jobs without government interference, and any handcuffing and temporary detainment by police officers of a photojournalist who simply attempted to document their activity in a public place is an infringement on the First Amendment," she told the Independent. "We find it disturbing and offensive that Susan Greene was told by officers to "act like a lady" when she claimed officers were hurting her as they handcuffed her and escorted her to their vehicle."

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