Tape Worms

The camera doesn't lie -- but every picture tells more than one story.

Rather than retire, Sanchez stayed on the force -- and was assigned to DIA, long a dumping ground for disgraced officers. (Although that, too, has changed, according to safety department spokeswoman C.L. Harmer. "Historically, that was true," she says. "Every bureaucracy has its turkey farm. But it's not the case now.") On Monday, Captain James Collier, who pre-dated Sanchez as police chief, was given his job at the airport; Sanchez was reassigned to the Training Bureau in the Technology and Support Division, a move that does not give you much faith in the future of the force. Before Mena, the cop scandal du jour at City Hall involved police recruit Ellis Johnson, a convicted drug user pushed for the academy by then-safety manager Butch Montoya. Johnson ultimately busted out because he was no good at the multi-tasking so necessary for good police work (does it involve pushing a TV remote?); Montoya was busted by Webb during the Mena fallout and now works in the city's driver's license division.

Perhaps it's time for Montoya to return to the station he left behind in order to enter public service, since Channel 9 seems to be blurring the journalistic lines these days. In one of this story's oddest chapters, Sanchez gave Woodward an interview the week before Maass's series broke -- and after the city knew Channel 4 was asking around the airport about loafing cops. The prophylactic measure didn't do much good for either the cops or 9News, though, since Woodward's piece looked like a housebound poodle compared to the pit-bull intensity of her past reports, which set the style in Denver for undercover surveillance. "We just reported the fact of the investigation," Woodward says.

Maass, on the other hand, had a true scoop and all that dynamite footage to counter Sanchez's on-camera statement that he'd known about the problems in November and was dealing with them. How? By dropping a copy of TV Guide off at the paramedic lounge? "Channel 9 broke the story that Channel 4 was going to break the story," Maass says. "They hurt their own credibility trying to mislead the public." Particularly boneheaded was a Channel 9 promo on Monday that credited its coverage with inspiring the DPD's reassignments.

Although the story isn't over, it's not too soon to give it a happy ending or two. If the DPD finds current rules for disciplining cops too restricting, it could push through a few charter changes of its own rather than resort to the time-honored tradition of killing the messenger (or at least subpoenaing his tapes). After all, because of new FAA mandates, DIA will spend $3.5 million more on police overtime this year than initially anticipated -- and it would be comforting to know that the money will buy us more security, not well-rested cops.

Aren't there bigger threats to DIA's security than Brian Maass?

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