The specter of Paul Childs was fading away.

******

In the summer of 2010, LaCabe left the Manager of Safety office, but stayed on an extra month to work with his replacement, Ron Perea, a former special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service's Los Angeles division, who'd helped run security during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The first case Perea handled on his own was the beating of 23-year-old Michael DeHerrera outside a LoDo nightclub in April 2009 by officers Devin Sparks and Randy Murr. In August, Perea docked each of the officers three days' pay — even though a video of the altercation, captured by the DPD's High Activity Location Observation (HALO) surveillance system, showed the officers tackling DeHerrera, beating him with a sap and slamming his ankle in a car door after he'd apparently done nothing other than make a call on his cell phone.

That video quickly went viral, drawing national attention to Denver's police force. Rosenthal disagreed with Perea's decision (according to an Independent Monitor report that appeared to refer to the incident, he believed the cops should have been fired), and Good Morning America filmed both Rosenthal and DeHerrera's families speaking out. A day later, Hickenlooper, then running for governor, announced that he wanted the FBI to look into the incident. Protesters marched through the streets, demanding Perea's resignation. It didn't seem to matter that shootings by officers were down or that police complaints in general were dropping: The cops' own video system was broadcasting to all the world just how brutal Denver officers could be.

"When something like this is on video, I think the Independent Monitor is more willing to say, 'Yep, this happened, and something needs to be done,'" says Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado. "And I think video is very powerful for the public, too."

Behind the scenes, Rosenthal was more concerned about a second disciplinary decision that Perea had made, one involving a volunteer firefighter claiming that in November 2008, Officer Eric Sellers had put him in a chokehold, wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed him and screamed at him after the firefighter criticized the cop. While Perea found that Sellers had lied during an investigation, because the inquiry had taken so long he didn't fire him, as the new disciplinary matrix indicated, but just suspended him for 45 days.

"It had the potential of undermining all our reforms on force and lying," says Rosenthal. Perea seemed to be undoing everything that he and LaCabe had built — but as it turned out, the new Manager of Safety wouldn't get a chance to do much else. After both disciplinary decisions were rescinded, Perea resigned less than two months into his tenure. "No one ever asked me my opinion as to whether Perea should stay or go, and I didn't offer it," Rosenthal says, but he was clearly relieved.

Still, Perea's departure didn't end the controversy. Accounts of alleged police misconduct continued to make headlines, especially as other allegations of brutality surfaced — along with more HALO videos.

When Bill Vidal became mayor in January as Hickenlooper moved into the governor's office, he made police concerns his top priority, vowing to resolve all ongoing cases of alleged police misconduct before he leaves office in July. "Coming from Cuba, and my wife coming from Chile, we came from places where people were afraid of people in uniforms," Vidal explains. "To me, what makes the United States a great place to live is that we feel that the people in uniform are here to help us. These high-profile cases have confused that, and I felt a strong personal commitment that we have to change that."

So far, Vidal's administration has made good on that commitment. In March, in her last act before leaving the office, interim safety manager Mary Malatesta terminated two officers for lying about their pursuit of a stolen car. Vidal then appointed Charley Garcia, the former head of Denver's Public Defender Office, to be Denver's fourth Manager of Safety in less than a year — and one of Garcia's first acts was to announce the firing of Sparks and Murr, the officers involved in the DeHerrera case. A month later, Garcia fired two more officers —Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine — over another incident caught on HALO cameras: cops shoving several women to the ground during a 2009 altercation outside the Denver Diner.

All told, six Denver police have been terminated in the past few months, more than in the preceding three years.

Another high-profile incident was resolved when the city agreed that Sellers, the cop who'd allegedly attacked the volunteer firefighter, would be suspended without pay for forty days. It was a punishment that Rosenthal appeared to criticize as too light in his most recent disciplinary report, but he was happy with another recent city decision: In April, Chief Whitman announced the elimination of the city's Discipline Review Board, a part of the internal investigation process that Rosenthal had argued was redundant and added, on average, 73 days to the complaint process.

And finally last week, one of the last, lingering headline-grabbing cases was officially put to rest: the jailhouse death of homeless preacher Marvin Booker after sheriff's deputies held him to the ground, put him in a chokehold and Tasered him in order to stop him from resisting. At a press conference at the new Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, where Booker had died last July, Vidal, Garcia and jail director Wilson announced that the deputies involved hadn't violated policy and wouldn't be disciplined; to prove it, they released a forty-page report and multiple videos that captured the incident in vivid detail. Then, as the news cameras rolled, Rosenthal took the podium to announce that he concurred with the decision. "The internal affairs investigation into the incident is one of the most comprehensive and thorough that I have seen since I began monitoring activities six and a half years ago," he said, adding that the city was creating a task force to evaluate the Denver Sheriff Department's use-of-force policies.

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8 comments
KST
KST

Rosenthal says Denver has a good police department but all he talks about in interviews isa few cases that have been sensationalized. Why doesn't he discuss the statistics from his Annual Report 2010? In the report he says, "It is important to note that only a small proportion of citizen-police contacts in 2010 resulted in a citizen complaint. For example, Denver Police officers responded to 465,511 calls for service in 2010. In the same time period, the DPD received 601 citizen complaints against its officers, which amounts to a conservative estimate of roughly one complaint for ever 775 calls for service (or .013%)"

He goes on to say, "Only a relatively small proportion of DPD officers had one complaint sustained in 2010 (5.3%) and no officers had more than two complaints sustained in one year."

This information is on the OIM website but it is not well publisized. If Rosenthal really wantstransparancy and believes DPD is a good department why doesn't he use these statitistics in his interview and tell people to read the entrie report on the OIM website?

KST

Ray Denonville
Ray Denonville

The Denver Police Union P.P.A. wants Rosenthal fired. A Denver Copwatch member I spoke with wants Rosenthal fired; something about L.A.P.D. If the P.P.A. and Denver Copwatch both want Rosenthal fired he must be doing something right.

Garygoode
Garygoode

As an employee of several large industries, all of which were unionized, an oversite department is always needed. To those that are caught, they hate the system, those who remain unscathed, no issues.

Videos are everywhere in our society now; most of the complaints about the Denver Police beating the citizens have been followed with some "interesting" video evidence. Generally, when there is no video, the case goes away without a conviction or reprimand.

Times have changed, now the police unions are fighting the system by confronting only the enforcers, not the videos, not the evidence, nor the complaints.

Remember the banking meltdown of 2008? The banking and financial enforcement agency went for years trying to regulate themselves only to become the advocates of a bad system.

Let the unions run the show and we all will pay.

Grab your camera and hit the streets.

Darthurwhittle
Darthurwhittle

Rosenthal keeping an eye on Denver cops----but not too close------------------

AnyBodyButObama 2012
AnyBodyButObama 2012

Denver "Doesn't have a bad Police Department..."? This is who saying this? I'm sure the rash of bad cops over the last few years is just an "Accident"! And those are only the ones that got caught, what is the percentage that hasn't?

Kenneth Westervelt
Kenneth Westervelt

West Denver Copwatch has no love for the man. I don't really have a dog in the fight, as I've never had problems like this when I ran into police in the past.

Fds3
Fds3

It is real easy to blame the police and the sherriff's for all the problems but Mr Rosenthal you couldn't do there job and you have no clue of the type of people they deal with. I think that you should think about this thought.

Boyhood
Boyhood

Rosenthal needs to go trust me....

 
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