The Denver Office of the Independent Monitor has released its annual report on law enforcement in Denver. As usual, it includes an update on why and how officers were disciplined.
Out of roughly of 1,500 police officers, two were fired and 11 resigned or retired while the disciplinary process was pending. Out of roughly 1,000 sheriff’s employees, six were fired and four resigned or retired during disciplinary hearings in 2016.
Community complaints about police officers have continued a downward trend, dropping from 539 in 2014 to 388 in 2016. Complaints about the sheriff’s department also have dropped sharply, including a significant decrease in community complaints, though the OIM is reviewing a “large number of inmate complaints,” which would normally count as complaints against the sheriff’s department, that were never entered into the tracking system.
Also, 412 Denver police officers received commendations for honor, courage or commitment to community service, including 18 for saving lives, 57 laudatory letters from citizens and five medals of valor. Police collectively responded to more than 500,000 calls for service. (Data wasn’t available for sheriff’s department commendations.) The full report is available here. What follows are a selection of examples of alleged offenses and the city government’s response.
– A sergeant last summer made a habit of drinking at “a local bar” while off duty, and while working security there and also while working in police uniform. He reportedly left his loaded firearm in a coat closet “and left the location to have sexual intercourse with a female at her home.” He reportedly left his gun, uniform and equipment behind an outdoor bar while drinking at the bar. He reportedly allowed a civilian to handle his gun for a “safety demonstration.” He was fired.
– In 2014, a woman struggled with officers, kicking and spitting at them while they tried to arrest and handcuff her. Once at a station, she refused to give up her belt and shoes. One officer planted his knee on her neck, possibly causing her to lose consciousness. The officer did not get medical attention or report the use of force. He was fired; on review, it was modified to 60 days of suspension and two years of probation; on further review, the Civil Service Commision decided again that he should be fired. An appeal is pending at the Colorado Court of Appeals.
– A sheriff’s deputy was fired for throwing an inmate off his feet, with no apparent provocation, causing the inmate’s head to slam into a table, the OIM report states. A hearing officer’s review gave him a six-day suspension instead. It’s on appeal to the Career Service Board.
– A deputy was fired for kicking an inmate’s hands after the inmate threw food through a cell door flap.
– An officer “jokingly threw a bag of marijuana” – which was being held as evidence – into another officer’s car, according to the report. “He then un-holstered his service weapon, pointed it in the direction of the fellow officer and said, ‘Dirty cop, show me your hands.'” Ten-day suspension for him.
– Several deputies were suspended for skipping assigned work shifts at detention facilities.
– Civilian employees reported in 2015 that an officer spent “Excessive amounts of time visiting and attempting to flirt with” women who worked as civilians. He touched one person’s hair several times, according to the OIM report, commented on her appearance and massaged her shoulders. When a female supervisor told him to leave, he instead “inappropriately tickled” the supervisor’s waist, the report states. He was suspended for ten days and fined two days’ pay.
– An officer in May 2016 went to the home of a domestic violence victim after arresting a suspect in the case, according to the report. While there, he unfastened his pants “to adjust his uniform, partially undressing in front of the victim and her female friend,” purportedly because he was “disheveled.” Then he got the friend’s number and exchanged at least one sexually explicit text with her. He was suspended for 30 days for “conduct prejudicial,” police speak for general bad behavior.
Two months later, he allegedly assaulted someone in a driving-related dispute. He resigned prior to disciplinary proceedings.
– A detective “took home a city-owned trailer,” repaired it and sold it. He ultimately was suspended without pay for 5 days. The value of the trailer was not listed.
Retirements and resignations:
– An officer allegedly took a photo of a “high-ranking member of the DPD’s command staff” at the scene of a shooting that had injured an officer on Dec. 8, 2015. He allegedly uploaded the photo to social media. He retired prior to discipline.
– An officer was accused of three different incidents involving suspected substance use. In May 2016, he allegedly came to work under the influence of a “controlled substance,” which he reportedly possessed without a prescription. In August 2016, he was accused of striking a parked car while driving. He was charged with DUI but refused to submit to a narcotics test. In November, he allegedly was found intoxicated at a shopping mall with his child and an unprescribed controlled substance. He resigned prior to disciplinary findings and the Denver DA declined to charge him.