Denver City Council voted unanimously to a settlement agreement announced by the City Attorney’s office on April 12. Denver will pay $1 million for the fatal shooting of 17-year old Jessica Hernandez by Denver Police on January 26, 2015.
Police approached Hernandez and her friends who were parked in an alley in a northeast Park Hill neighborhood. There are conflicting accounts about what happened after that, but Hernandez was shot and died immediately.
Activists and survivors of police violence turned out in support of the Hernandez family and applied pressure to the City of Denver and the Denver Police Department to change its use-of-force policies, especially regarding moving cars.
Statements in response to the settlement have been received by The Nation Report. We are publishing the statements of three justice groups in their entirety.
Denver Justice Project (DJP) a coalition that works to achieve criminal justice reform by “examining and influencing the dynamic of elected officials, especially the DA, and law enforcement” released the following statement the day after the settlement was announced:
DJP continues to emphasize that monetary settlements do not equal justice. Settlements are a misguided step towards justice, and it is never what the family seeks or foresees as justice. In yesterday’s press conference, the city attorney’s office attempted to frame this settlement as an acceptable and positive form of justice because a trial would have otherwise been too costly and time-consuming. Denver Justice Project disagrees.
While the other actions that the City agreed to in addition to the monetary settlement are unique, Denver Justice Project feels that our community was ultimately denied a real opportunity to pursue an important kind of justice – personal accountability and the possibility of jail for the DPD officers who killed Jessie. We are left to wonder if police accountability in Denver will ever include individual law enforcement personnel facing the kinds of consequences for their actions or even prison time that so many of our families are forced to face for our mistakes. Although DJP believes that we can and should strive for a world where we no longer rely on prisons to deal with problems in our society, we can’t help but continue to be frustrated that, while the current system is in place, there remains a double standard in the way regular people and law enforcement are held accountable.
Co-chair of the Denver Justice Project Alex Landau is firm that, “We need a process that not only ceases the practice of taxpayers funding settlements after police violence, but does not allow police and deputies to hide behind what they felt was ‘objectively reasonable’ when they decide to hurt and or kill someone in a scenario that could have been handled without harming members of our community.” Denver Justice Project continues to call for law enforcement accountability measures that are tangible and effective enough that our communities and families like Jessica’s aren’t left searching for answers.