By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
A man hired by the City of Denver to help coordinate the Neighborhood Watch anti-crime program has been arrested three times in the past twelve years--at least once for allegedly disturbing the peace of his own neighborhood.
Simmons is being paid more than $27,000 a year by the city's Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations to act as a "liaison between the community and the police department," city records say. He also is supposed to go door-to-door recruiting households to participate in the watch program, which is the city's primary neighborhood initiative to combat crime.
In his spare time, Simmons works as a foot soldier in the re-election campaign of Mayor Wellington Webb.
Simmons says he was completely exonerated after his most recent arrest, which stemmed from an altercation with his wife in January 1994. The earlier charges against him, he says, occurred in the distant past, and he has since gone on to earn a master's degree in criminal justice. His brushes with the law, he adds, are an asset to him in his current job.
"I understand the process," Simmons says. "I've been through it on the negative side, and I'm now in it on the positive side. I understand when people come to me and say, `The police are antagonizing us. The police are beating us up for no reason.'"
Simmons's first arrest occurred in Glendale in 1983, when he was charged with shoplifting. He claims that he was "with some friends" who were shoplifting and that he got arrested solely because he was part of the group. "I was right there with them, and I got involved in it," he says. "I should have said something, but I didn't tell on anybody. I took the rap myself."
Glendale police records tell a different story. According to the incident report, Simmons was seen removing a price tag from an $85 camera by an employee at the Glendale Target store. He took the camera to the customer-service desk, where he "returned" it for a cash refund. After police arrested him, Simmons admitted he was guilty and said he'd committed the crime because he was "broke" and needed the money to buy food.
Glendale Municipal Court clerk Mary Kay Bateman says that Simmons received a "deferred judgment" in the case and that the charge was eventually dismissed. Back in 1983, deferred judgment often was granted as a probationary period to first-time shoplifting offenders, says Glendale prosecutor Ed Geer. Violators had to attend a "petty-theft seminar" and stay out of trouble for six months; at the end of the six months, their charges would be dropped.
Simmons was arrested again in Denver in February 1988 and charged with assault and disturbing the peace, state records show. Neither the Denver police nor the Denver County Court have retained their records of that incident. Simmons says he doesn't remember details about what happened, but he acknowledges it was a case of domestic violence. "I take full responsibility for that, not really understanding how to handle my anger," Simmons says. He says he pleaded guilty and went through a court-ordered counseling program, and the charge was eventually wiped from his record.
Simmons says his most recent arrest was totally unjustified. On New Year's Day last year, after he had become a watch coordinator, police were called to Simmons's home in northeast Denver around 6:25 a.m., court records state. Patrolman Timothy Sullivan encountered Simmons at the front door, bellowing at his wife because she had locked him out of the house.
"The suspect was...yelling and screaming at the victim to have her let him in," Sullivan wrote in a report of the incident. "He was drunk and acting hostile and aggressive."
Sullivan reported that he gave Simmons an opportunity to collect his belongings and leave. "He refused and continued yelling at his wife," Sullivan wrote.
Sullivan took Simmons into custody and charged him with disturbing the peace. Though the court file is sketchy, it indicates the charge was later dismissed because the city decided it could not prove its case. (In his incident report, Sullivan noted that Simmons's wife "refused to cooperate.")
"I was exonerated," Simmons says. "The case was dropped because they had no evidence."
The City of Denver first hired Simmons as a consultant in May 1992 through the Mayor's Office of Em-ployment and Training. Simmons received a $29,000 contract to administer a scholarship program at the agency, which oversees job programs for youth and the poor. According to his contract, Simmons's duties included providing "employment readiness training" to scholarship recipients, "self-esteem building" and "follow-up activities" with those in the program who found jobs.
Simmons's contract, according to a city memo, was extended the following year at the request of Marilyn Webb, a sister-in-law of the mayor who is a deputy director of MOET. Simmons was later given another consulting contract from the Agency for Human Rights to act as a coordinator for the Neighborhood Watch Program.
In his first few months as a coordinator, Simmons worked as an independent contractor to the city and received $2,366 a month, records show. Last March he was hired on as a full-time city employee.
John McBride, Simmons's supervisor, says Simmons told him and other administration officials about his troubles before joining the Neigh-borhood Watch program. McBride says Simmons is assigned to work a number of crime-plagued neighborhoods in northeast Denver and agrees that his arrests give him street credibility.
"Alvertis does a very good job," McBride says. "Whatever he's done in his past, he doesn't bring it to work with him.