Denver Sheriff’s Department failed to disclose deputies with credibility issues

The department is moving to fix the mistake that could impact past criminal cases.

Denver law enforcement. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver law enforcement. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The Denver Sheriff’s Department has not disclosed which of its deputies have violations for dishonesty, Denver officials announced Tuesday.

The administrative flub has been ongoing for about a decade, which is when federal rules changed to require law enforcement agencies to keep lists of officials who may not make credible witnesses in a criminal trial due to past instances of lying. The Denver Police Department has kept such a list since 2008.

The error was discovered in September by the city’s Public Integrity Division, a civilian department created last year to investigate complaints and potential rule violations within the Sheriff’s Department. To fix the problem, the Department of Public Safety and the citizen division will review past internal affairs cases to determine which deputies to list. Officials plan to release this list to the public in the first quarter of 2020.

The requirement to make this list — known as a Brady list — comes from a group of federal rules known as the Brady Doctrine, which requires prosecutors to disclose all evidence that may help exonerate a defendant in a criminal trial. Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs, who started his job last year, said he could not provide an official rationale for the omission. The most likely explanation is that past administrations did not consider the Sherriff’s Department to be subject to the doctrine, he said.

“The Sheriff’s Department is a unique department in Denver, but it is a law enforcement agency,” Denver’s Public Safety Executive Director Troy Riggs at a press conference. “Upon reviewing this past position we determined that our department should, in fact, be subject to Brady disclosure.”

In Denver, the Sheriff’s Department’s responsibilities are restricted to the county jail and corrections. Because deputies aren’t out policing the streets, it’s rare for them to witness a crime or be called as witnesses in court. While making a Brady List will require a time-consuming audit of the department, the likelihood that a deputy with violations had testified in a case in the past is unlikely.

“Because we rarely call sheriff deputies to testify in criminal cases, we expect the impact of this development to be minimal,” said Carolyn Tyler, a spokesperson for the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

This administrative omission is the first major finding from the PID, which will continue auditing the Sheriff’s Department to determine if other rules have been broken.

“We fully anticipate that we may have other issues,” Riggs said.

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