A Denver police officer currently under suspension faces an additional 38-day suspension after she struck a pedestrian while driving near a light rail station on Colfax Avenue last year. She was looking at her cellphone.
Officer Jamie Taft admitted she struck a pedestrian while she turned left on Colfax Avenue from Mariposa Street on Sept. 17, 2019, according to a July 6 disciplinary letter obtained by Denverite.
The letter said Taft pleaded guilty to careless driving charges on Jan. 27. She was initially charged with careless driving, careless driving resulting in injury and infliction of serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user. The department’s own investigation found Taft violated two department rules related to careless driving during the incident.
Last September, at 11:13 p.m., Taft was headed north on Mariposa Street and driving her marked patrol car and was in the left turn lane. After the light turned green, the letter said Taft went through the intersection, with her body-worn camera showing her “performing some sort of data entry on her mobile phone” as she turned left onto Colfax Avenue and struck the pedestrian, who is identified by his initials in the letter.
Taft immediately stopped her patrol car after striking the man and called for an ambulance. She apologized to the man, who responded by saying he felt “something’s broken.” Taft reassured the person an ambulance was on its way.
“You’re the last person I would expect to get hit by,” the man told Taft, according to the disciplinary letter. The man had “multiple thoracic spinal fractures” after he was struck.
Taft told the man she had a bike in her back seat, and as she turned, the bike shifted, distracting her. She thought it might have broken a window in her car; she told accident investigators she looked in her rearview mirror to see if the bike had done so.
Taft’s suspension is scheduled to begin Sept. 12 and continues through Oct. 19, according to the disciplinary letter. City records administrator Andrea Webber said Taft has appealed this suspension.
Taft is currently serving a 90-day suspension, the maximum possible time for an officer. That suspension is due to a separate violation last year whose investigation concluded in June. According to a 16-page disciplinary letter, Taft’s 90-day suspension was due to her sharing “alleged explicit details” about a personnel investigation on another officer (whom Taft had previously had an intimate relationship with) and for lying to internal affairs investigators.
According to the disciplinary letter for that investigation, Taft was scheduled to be suspended from June 14 through Sept. 11 — a day before she’s scheduled to begin her suspension for hitting a man with her cruiser. Both suspensions are unpaid.
While state law prohibits texting while driving, there are challenges for cops to enforce the law and for the city to keep track. Last year, Denverite reporters spent an hour at five busy city intersection and saw several examples of distracted driving, including things like people talking on their phones, using a vape pen and a person reaching for something on their car floor while driving.
So far this year, city data shows 221 people have been seriously injured and 29 people have died on Denver’s streets.