Kings of the Hill

Officers O'Bannon and Duncan have racked up an amazing number of Capitol Hill drug busts. And citizen complaints.

At the trial, Baker railed on Duncan until he contradicted himself so badly that he had little credibility.

Baker noticed that Duncan had made a "mistake" filling out Davis and Oliphant's Miranda advisement card, which officers use to document the time they read an arrestee his rights.

After a string of tedious questioning, Baker established that O'Bannon and Duncan had filled out their paperwork separately, never trading notes on the facts of the case. Duncan quipped, "I use the computer and he uses the typewriter."

But, Baker argued, "since you never talked to O'Bannon to get your facts straight, it would have been impossible for him to make exactly the same error you made, isn't that correct?"

Duncan: "I assume so, yes."
Baker approached Duncan to show him O'Bannon's Miranda advisement card. "What time did Officer O'Bannon advise Mr. Davis of his rights?" Baker asked.

"It would be 8:07 p.m."
"Eighteen minutes before you stopped the vehicle? Isn't that correct?"
"That's correct, according to that."

"That couldn't have happened if you guys hadn't talked about this, could it have, officer?"

"I can't comment on that."
"There is no explanation for that, is there, officer?"
"Sure it is--put down the wrong time."

"You both inadvertently put the wrong time without having spoken to each other?"

Duncan: "That's correct."
Despite the showmanship, Baker's point was clear. Either Duncan was capable of lying under oath, or the two officers were strangely, inordinately incompetent.

O'Bannon and Duncan collect almost as many awards as arrests.
The duo has received fourteen official commendation letters from the top brass for outstanding deeds, mostly drug busts. Once the pair even chased down a thief who had snatched the donation box from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

And in February, the officers received their most prestigious recognition yet: a merit award signed by Chief of Police Tom Sanchez for their "outstanding job in District 6 regarding narcotics investigations." They were credited with making approximately 10 percent of all drug arrests in Capitol Hill.

The merit award read, "Officer O'Bannon and Duncan's testimony has put many of these drug dealers and users in the Department of Corrections...

"Through [their] efforts, drug dealing and usage in the Capitol Hill area is being significantly reduced and systematically eliminated."

Captain John Weber of the civil liabilities unit hailed their accomplishments as "extraordinary."

But the celebrating wouldn't last long. Two weeks later, a Capitol Hill resident filed a civil lawsuit against the two officers and the Denver Police Department.

On New Year's Eve 1998, O'Bannon and Duncan arrived at the one-bedroom apartment of a forty-five-year-old woman who had phoned a suicide hotline and abruptly ended the conversation.

After opening the door with guarded hesitance, the woman allowed the two officers into her home. Duncan asked her for identification. She walked to the bedroom to retrieve her purse. Duncan followed, saying he wanted to make sure no one was hiding in the apartment.

The woman told Duncan she felt uncomfortable having two men in her home--that she had been the victim of a rape a year earlier, to which Duncan made "a sarcastic comment." Three times, she asked Duncan not to follow her closely.

In her lawsuit, the woman, a paralegal, complained that "Duncan stated that he was the police and that he could do anything he wanted to do. Defendant O'Bannon then entered [the apartment] also. Duncan was loud and belligerent."

She claims Duncan eyed her panties on the bedroom floor and "stared intently."

"He started to move away and then went back to stare again." She told the duo, "You are not acting normally."

"We're not acting normally?" one of the officers said. They traded glances of amusement, she claims.

Then, with the two officers in her home, the woman dialed 911 and begged the dispatcher to send a supervisor to the scene. O'Bannon reportedly laughed at the gesture and said she would "just get more of them." When she crouched to the ground and tried to call her brother, O'Bannon ripped the cord from the wall.

The woman was lifted from the floor and placed in handcuffs. The officers sat her in a chair and dressed her in socks, shoes and a coat. O'Bannon joked to Duncan that this was the part of the job he "really hated."

As they led the woman out of her apartment, Sergeant Dave Watts arrived on bicycle. The woman complained about the duo's behavior and refused to ride in a car driven by either of the officers. Though he was on a bike, Watts promised to follow the patrol car driven by O'Bannon. Complaining that it was New Year's Eve and the officers were very busy, O'Bannon took the woman to Denver Health Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation.

She was detained for two and a half hours, then released with no after-care instructions. Besides her lawsuit, she also filed a complaint with the Public Safety Review Commission, a quasi-citizen review board. In June the commission voted to forward her complaint to internal affairs for an official investigation, the duo's tenth.

The police department's internal affairs office won't release the number of citizen complaints received for individual officers. Under state statute 24-72-204, the statistics are considered "personal file information" and are not available for review by the public. Trend reports do exist, however, and are passed along to the chief's office, but no one in the department would comment on the number of investigations racked up by O'Bannon and Duncan. Even the citizen review board keeps the number of complaints received confidential.

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