Inappropriate or unlawful traffic stops

We have several friends that are raising teenagers of color. They aren’t living in Littleton, but one is. But numerous have had incidents where their kids have been pulled over without cause by police officers. In one case, a young woman was actually hit on twice by two different officers. Now, I’m not pointing the finger at Littleton because this happened outside, but this is part of the national narrative. There is a problem in this case. I wanted to know that if something like this would happen in Littleton and a citizen wanted to raise that question, do these kinds of things only get happened internally because the idea of total immunity is a concerning for any organization that doesn’t have some kind of outside review to help the police when that’s necessary. So how do you handle those kinds of situations? What would cause you to say this requires an external review?

Littleton Police Chief Doug StephensChief Douglas Stephens: I understand your concern and your question, and it’s not an uncommon concern or question, unfortunately, for our profession. I know there’s a lot of concern in our community for people of color or different genders or ethnicities that feel as if the officers in many cases are stopping them without cause. Obviously, if you know someone or someone experiences that, we definitely want to know about that so that we can look into it, and we want to make sure that we’re doing what we are properly and legally authorized to do, and we’re doing it in a professional manner. So you addressed a couple of different things there. One is the potential unlawful stopping, and then another one was unprofessional manner of stopping someone because she’s cute or he’s cute or whatever. So a lot of times, I can’t speak to those specific situations. But I can tell you, based on my experience, including [inaudible 00:51:39] as an internal affairs investigator, there are things that happen that are inappropriate. I’m not naive to that.

So we definitely want to hear about that. Right now, we have internal processes to investigate those things. But those internal processes are more transparent than they have been in the past. One of the reasons for that is there is other legislation that was passed by the Colorado state legislature that does open up certain internal affairs files that previously would have been closed. So my advice to folks is, if you feel like you’ve been wronged in some way, don’t sit and stew over it and wonder what to do. Please, whatever jurisdiction, make them aware of your concerns. Then don’t give up.

So if you’re not getting the service or the response that you think you deserve, keep trying and keep working at it. There’s someone above me, and he’s sitting right to the left of me, and then there’s someone above him and they’re sitting up here in the other part of the room, and there’s always ears to listen. There’s always venues to let it be known. I’m answerable to someone, just like officers are answerable to me. So if you don’t get the service that you expect from our officers, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to investigate it to the best of our ability and to be transparent about it.