Can new faces and a new structure bring discipline to the Denver Police Department?

Can new faces and a new structure bring discipline to the Denver Police Department?
Anthony Camera
Alex Landau has become a city symbol for social justice.

Alex Landau grins and waves at the thirty people seated in a circle around him at the Hiawatha Davis Community Center in Park Hill. He lives in this neighborhood and knew many of them even before his bloody face made the news. "My name is Alex Landau, and I'm going to teach you some tips and phrases to use with law enforcement, if you're ever in a situation where you need them," he says. "Let's hope you're not. A couple years ago, I could have used some of these."

The now-23-year-old college student has been telling his story for three and a half years in various forums — to friends, strangers, city officials, and now as an instructor at a know-your-rights training with the Colorado Progressive Coalition. "A few years ago, I was racially profiled by the Denver Police Department," he begins. "I had a gun put to my head. I was laughed at and called a nigger. They beat me until I bled."

On the night of January 15, 2009, Landau, then a nineteen-year-old about to start his third semester at Community College of Denver, and a friend, Addison Hunold, were headed to Wendy's in Landau's car when an officer pulled them over near the corner of 16th Avenue and Emerson Street. He told Landau that he'd made an illegal left turn, requested his identification, then asked to search his vehicle. Landau approved, and Hunold voluntarily handed over a pill container full of weed. But there was more in the trunk, and the two grew nervous. When officer Ricky Nixon approached the back of the car, Landau asked if he had a warrant to search the trunk — and the situation suddenly changed. Nixon punched Landau in the face, Landau remembers, and then officers Randy Murr and Tiffany Middleton joined in a brawl that sent all four tumbling to the ground. They hit Landau with their fists, a police radio and a metal flashlight, he says. At one point, he felt a gun against the side of his face. Before he was taken to the hospital — where he was given 45 stitches — he demanded that paramedics take photographs of the damage.

Alex Landau was beaten by Denver cops in 2009.
Alex Landau was beaten by Denver cops in 2009.
Chief of Police Robert White has launched many changes.
Brandon Marshall
Chief of Police Robert White has launched many changes.

Those photographs helped convince the city to pay Landau a record settlement two years ago.

"But what happened after that?" someone in the audience asks. "How does your story end?"

"It hasn't," Landau answers.

**********

Hours after Landau was released from Denver Health in January 2009, the Denver district attorney charged him with attempting to disarm a police officer: Nixon was claiming that Landau had reached for Middleton's gun. Landau denied it, and kept denying it when he was offered a plea deal that would downgrade the Class 6 felony charge to a misdemeanor and lower the time Landau might face in prison, originally up to eighteen months. Landau refused the deal, and seven months later, the DA dropped the charge against him. By then, the DPD's Internal Affairs Bureau had already decided that Nixon, Murr and Middleton had acted in accordance with DPD policy and shut the book on the incident.

But Landau's case lived on in the legal system. In January 2011, attorney John Holland filed suit on Landau's behalf against Nixon, Murr, Middleton, then-Chief of Police Gerald Whitman and the City and County of Denver, alleging that his client's civil rights had been violated when he was racially profiled. In a letter notifying city officials of the pending suit, Holland had included the photos that Landau had insisted be taken that night. In them, Landau's face is swollen and bloody. His nasal passage is reinforced with a breathing tube and his neck is supported by a brace. He cannot open his right eye. And the attorney also informed the city of the words Landau remembers hearing as he was beaten: "Where's that warrant now, you fucking nigger?" (See "Black and Blue," January 20, 2011.)

Just four months after the suit was filed, in May 2011, the city awarded Landau $795,000 in an out-of-court settlement that also called for the DPD to conduct a formal investigation into the officers' behavior that night.

Changes within the DPD's disciplinary system slowed the progress of that investigation, however. Manager of Safety Al LaCabe had already devoted years to updating the DPD's disciplinary matrix, establishing a stricter, more cohesive plan for dealing with accusations of officer misconduct. Under this update, for example, officers who lie during an investigation can be fired for the offense. Soon after announcing the new standards — in January 2009, the same month that Landau was pulled over — LaCabe said that he would be leaving his job of six years. That June, Mayor John Hickenlooper replaced LaCabe with former Secret Service official Ron Perea, who lasted two months before he, too, vacated the position.

When Hickenlooper left the mayor's office to run for governor in 2010, Bill Vidal, who replaced him, said he was determined to clean up the DPD's many outstanding cases involving alleged police misconduct, and ultimately appointed former chief public defender Charles Garcia to the manager of safety post. (Garcia was the fourth to hold that slot in less than a year.) And clean up he did, terminating seven officers in four months. Many of those officers subsequently appealed their firing to Denver's Civil Service Commission.

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21 comments
Maji
Maji

To Jamier247 -   You assume they had weed in the trunk.  Alex's friend was only freaking because the search was escalating and he knew it could get bad.  Alex is now working with victims, and educating normal citizens on ways to avoid police conflicts.  He's a kind, smart, thoughtful young man, and your comments are based on ignorance and racism.  What an insult you are.

diamondgirlmya
diamondgirlmya

Police act like a gang and they are supposed to protect and serve ....not torture people. and that officer should no longer be working for the Department ever again!

Guest
Guest

It doesn't matter what was or wasn't in the trunk. He consented to a search of the cab, which he did not have to do, but asked for a warrant to search the trunk, they asked if the officer had a warrant. Rather than either, A) Search it anyway and contest in court whether US V Ross applied in this case, they chose to beat the living hell out of Landau. This is a clear case of police brutality. He has been cleared of all charges, so obviously the evidence that he 'went for the officer's gun' wasn't there. It is never okay for police officers to beat civilians, and since most of them are recorded while on duty, why weren't they able to provide any evidence of Landau's supposed behavior. Unfortunately, idiotic reasoning is used which essentially allows the police to use those recordings if they support the police's point of view, but civilians are not allowed to see said same tapes if they show evidence of an officer breaking the law. Double standard much?

Who Cares
Who Cares

Reform the worst criminal gang known as DPD? Not going to happen. Westword should take a day and photograph the eyes of DPD street thugs. They are totally gone. The number one criminal gang in Denver is DPD. Just look at them. Frothing at the wastoids with far gone eyes. Most look like they are drugged out.

guest
guest

They do get up early to beat the crowds

Lousligo39
Lousligo39

lots of liberal jews in denver i take it.bet none of them ever did a days worl except to rabble rouse the swatzters.

Jamier247
Jamier247

I'm right there with you. It's funny how the media who's bias in their coverage does report the fact that law abiding citizens don't drive around with a trunk full of drugs. And for those who think its no big deal apparently you have no idea of what's happening in our streets. Are there cops who shouldn't be on the streets, yes but there are more good cops doing a job of risking their lives for our protection that us everyday Joe citizens wouldnt do...so for all you people that say fuck the police blah blah blah are you going to patrol our streets, get the bad guys no matter what the cost (maybe your lives) go after the gang members, stop the robbers??? No your not.

Jamier247
Jamier247

Landau is made out to be a hero of some kind for citizens rights, he's a fucking drug dealer plan and simple. Your going to sit there and tell me two guys with a trunk full of weed is just some poor innocent guy....brother please! He was a low life who was doing illegal shit, did he deserve to get the shit kicked out of him....hummm I don't know cause we weren't there. But if he was going for an officers gun (which happens more often than you'd believe) do you all seriously believe that he and his buddy with a car full of weed intended to comply with officers and didnt struggle? We only have his word for it that he did nothing, so he recalled it. But let me reflect on cases like his where these guys say they did nothing

Mouthbomb
Mouthbomb

fuck denver police, savage fucking swine, burn them all alive!

Parker
Parker

Not saying beating him was right.....but now a sizable amount of money, which comes from our taxes, went to a law breaking, drug using individual.....Nice job! I'm sure he is using some of that 800K to buy more weed.....isn't it great to live in America where you can get ahead by being a degenerate

Mikelblk
Mikelblk

I'm glad to see that someone is actually policing the police. I to have had dealings with the DPD. Scary stuff!!

sarahadam889
sarahadam889

Foxes and henhouses, deck chairs and the Titanic - Chief White's efforts. Farts in a hurricane - Mayor Hancock's leadership.DISCOVER THE TRUTH BEHIND... READ THIS ARTICLE  ......=> FinancialsReports.blogspot.com

Bob Smith
Bob Smith

Foxes and henhouses, deck chairs and the Titanic - Chief White's efforts. Farts in a hurricane - Mayor Hancock's leadership.

Brian Frederick
Brian Frederick

Because that's going to work, "Guest." Listen, people can have their "fuck the police" rallies all they want - but fact of the matter is, they don't and won't work. It's not the complaints that weed out the bad apples, clearly, because what happens? They get their jobs back, get a job in another town or just leave and get paid for it. All I'm saying is that there's going to be negative connotations to all this dissent of authority. The "weeding out" needs to happen on a personal level. Personal responsibility is going to be the only thing that saves us as a society - and - unfortunately it's not something we teach well to our kids in this country. So, yes, you're right. We all need to Man The Fuck Up.

Guest
Guest

So, how does this weeding out take place? Oh yeah, by people making complaints about said bad apples. Now, go tell your buddy's in blue to MAN THE FUCK UP!

BAFrederick
BAFrederick

Right - it's not like bad behavior in any authoritarian position is anything new. The media is acting like this is something that's just come out of nowhere - rather than looking at the obvious - that it's just easier to keep track of and prosecute in present day. Hearing that DPD is the devil of all police systems is laughable every time I hear it. Chicago and Los Angeles, to name a few, have been dealing with things like this for years. In fact, the reason why they don't have as many complaints is because socially it's just become accepted or civilians have learned that when you get arrested, you just buckle down and take it because there's nothing that can be done at the point of steel to skin. In no way am I condoning this type of behavior, but the unfortunate effect of filing so many complaints is that the good police are now scared to do their job. In talking with a few of my acquaintances who are in the force (no, you can't have their names) they've told me things like "cars will stall when being called to a scene because they don't want to be the first ones there" or "they won't even bother with the issue because of fear of doing their job properly that would be misconstrued." It's too bad we're scaring some of the good cops out of doing the right (and safe) thing for fear of being fired or suspended. Like I said, the behavior is not condoned, but another side needs to be told as well. The bad apples eventually get thrown away, not sold in a store - they'll get weeded out eventually.

diamondgirlmya
diamondgirlmya

your dumb and dont know what you are talking about!

Jamier247
Jamier247

Just like that gang member who shot a cop in Greely, media reported what a nice kid he was per is mother ( sure he was doing something illegal),when the officer stopped him but his mother was interviewed and said he son was innocent not a gang member and than tried to sue the county for $$$$ . Come to find out he was a total low life who was involved in gangs, robbery and other criminal behavior. Funny than we find out this guy has a criminal history. You can doing something illegal, resist arrest, fight a cop, and sue the city and be called a victim.

Mouthbomb
Mouthbomb

^^^conservative, totalitarian prick

 
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