The police department of Brighton, Colorado has offered an apology to a man who was handcuffed at a park in front of his young daughter for allegedly breaking social distancing rules.
Matt Mooney, 33, told local news outlets that he was handcuffed in front of his 6-year-old daughter on Sunday afternoon while playing teeball with her and his wife in the otherwise empty Donelson Park in Brighton.
Mooney said he refused to provide his identification to the three police officers who approached him because he was confident he wasn’t doing anything unlawful.
“She’s like, ‘Daddy, I don’t want you to get arrested,’” Mooney said, according to Fox 21. “At this point, I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way they’re going to arrest me, this is insane.’ I’m telling her, ‘Don’t worry, Daddy’s not going to get arrested. I’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t worry about it,’ and then they arrest me.”
Former Brighton City Councilman Kirby Wallin recorded much of the incident on his cellphone. “He’s being taken by the Brighton police for playing softball with his daughter in an empty park,” Wallin said during the recording.
“I find it hard to believe with all the things going on in our communities, the only way to resolve a situation like this was to handcuff a father in front of his daughter,” Wallin told another local outlet.
Fox 21 also reported that a sign at Donelson Park says “Closed” but in smaller print it reads, “in groups of no more than 4 persons, parks remain open for walking, hiking, biking, running and similar activities.”
Considering he was at the park with just his wife and daughter, Mooney says it’s the officers who violated social distancing guidelines.
“During the contact, none of the officers had masks on, none of them had gloves on, and they’re in my face handcuffing me, they’re touching me,” he said.
Mooney said he was released after spending about 10 minutes in the back of a patrol car.
“If we’re going to go ahead and start arresting people for no reason in front of their 6-year-old daughter, you’re just going to cause more problems later on,” he said.
Shortly after the incident, Fox 21 says Brighton police posted a vague statement on its Facebook page Sunday night that made no mention of Matt Mooney or his arrest but simply stated, “The Brighton Police Department is conducting an investigation into a situation that occurred late this afternoon at Donelson Park. This is an active investigation and so we are unable to provide additional information until the investigation is complete.”
On Tuesday, the City of Brighton issued a press release announcing that officials apologized to Mooney:
Acting City Manager Marv Falconburg reached out to Brighton resident Matt Mooney by telephone in an effort to arrange a meeting in person with Falconburg and Brighton Police Commander Frank Acosta to offer an apology by Brighton Police Department in person. Falconburg conveyed an apology, however, Mr. Mooney has declined the offer for an in person meeting.
After noting that police had initially been called to the scene in response to a complaint that a group of 12-15 people had gathered at the park, the statement continued:
The Brighton Police Department is currently conducting an internal investigation into what led to officers detaining Mr. Mooney while responding to the complaint. While the investigation sorts through the different versions of what took place by witnesses who were at the park, it is evident there was an overreach by our police officers.
As officers are required to interpret several layers of state public health orders and local closures as they change, there may have been a misunderstanding about the park closure. It is imperative that we improve communication with our front line first responders so they are up to date on the latest rules in place regarding COVID-19 for addressing public safety.
This is an opportunity for us to come together and do better for the community. We are deeply sorry for the events that took place on Sunday and the impact on Mr. Mooney, his family, and the community.
While it is honorable that the authorities are attempting to offer an apology, this arrest should never have taken place in the first place.
How will Mooney’s precious daughter—to say nothing of Mooney himself—feel about police after witnessing such a traumatic sight as her father being led away in handcuffs after playing in the park?
What effect will this have on the public’s trust of law enforcement—and all in the name of fighting the coronavirus?
We must not head down the dangerous path of the draconian police state. Now, more than ever, we need our men and women in law enforcement to do what is right, not apologize after the fact for doing wrong.
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