Colo. PD apologizes for handcuffing children in mistaken traffic stop

Video of the incident shows police keeping 4 Black girls facedown in a parking lot


By Suzie Ziegler 

AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora Police Department is facing criticism after video showed a group of officers detaining a Black family in a parking lot. Four girls, aged between 6 and 17, were told to lay facedown on the blacktop while officers handcuffed two of them. 

According to The Denver Post, police apprehended Brittney Gilliam and her children August 2 because they wrongly believed she was driving a stolen car. Police said the plate number on Gilliam’s car matched the stolen vehicle. However, the vehicle that was reported stolen was a motorcycle with Montana plates, whereas Gilliam was driving a van with Colorado plates. 

Newly appointed Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson apologized for the incident. 

“It was done wrong,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.” 

In a press briefing Wilson was asked to explain how officers failed to double check information from a license-plate scanner before detaining the family, according to the Post. Wilson said the incident began when Gilliam drove through an intersection with a license plate reader. The reader scans plates of passing vehicles and runs the numbers through a database of stolen and wanted vehicles. Wilson told reporters that the reader doesn’t record where the license plate was issued or what type of plate it is. 

“There was a mistake there,” Wilson said. “I would have expected that [officers] should have followed training and verified that prior to the stop.” 

In the video, officers surround the parked van and order everyone onto the ground. Gilliam repeatedly asked officers to check her license and registration, according to the Post, but they declined. 

Wilson said it was a mistake to let the children stay on the ground. She told reporters it is department policy to treat interactions with reported stolen vehicles as high risk, but said officers should have changed tactics sooner. 

“We’re hoping that an officer is going to make the determination and say, “Hmm, something’s wrong here — I’m not going to put this little kid on the ground,’” Wilson said at the briefing. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen.” 

Wilson said she reached out to the family to apologize and offer counseling services. However, Gilliam has said she isn’t interested in hearing the agency’s explanations or apologies, according to the Post. 

 

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