Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is ordering Denver police to temporarily stop taking camping equipment, including tents and blankets, away from homeless people because of frigid weather.
Police had been confiscating them as part of the city's homeless sweeps to clear sidewalks.
The announcement comes after video surfaced of officers enforcing the city's unauthorized camping ordinance on a cold night in late November.
“It is not an inherent crime to sleep outside, and many people right now have no other viable option," ACLU of Colorado said in a letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council on Friday. "Denver’s shelters are simply unable to serve all people in the Denver area experiencing homelessness, even in the short term, much less as a long-term solution. Until real solutions become Denver’s priority, the city’s ongoing policing-first approach to homelessness is a cruel waste of funds, curtailing fundamental constitutional rights, causing deep human suffering, and endangering lives."
Hancock says he does not want people to lose their lives because of the ordinance.
"Every night, we have beds open for people to sleep and every day we have safe places and resources to help people experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Hancock said.
Hancock says only a few people have had their sleeping bags and tents confiscated. Residents have complained about campsites near a rapidly developing area close to downtown Denver for months.
Police issued nine citations to seven people in two weeks.