A Denver police captain has been punished for ripping up a homeless man’s sign seeking legal recreational marijuana.
An internal investigation found Capt. Joe Black violated the man’s free speech rights when he destroyed the “Need weed” sign the was holding July 28 near the 16th Street Mall, reported the Denver Post.
Black had no grounds to destroy the sign and changed his account of the incident during the investigation, police said.
The homeless man, whose full name was not identified in the disciplinary letter, said Black told him that asking for marijuana was aggressive panhandling.
Black said the man became belligerent when he and another officer told him he could not sit or lie on the ground.
The officer claimed he took the sign because the man could potentially use it “to swat at members of the public,” and he later told investigators that the man swatted him with the sign.
Black, who commands the police department’s juvenile division, will lose four days of time off as punishment.
The sign incident took place six days after videotape showed Black shoving a fan three times at Coors Field.
The fan, Alex Buck, was thrown out of the ballpark but was not charged in the incident – which remains under investigation.
Black was working off-duty as a security guard in both cases.
Watch video of the Coors Field incident posted online by savyfide: