Yesterday, we reported on the Denver Civil Service Commission ruling that Officer James Medina should get his Denver Police Department job back, despite having been fired for use of excessive force.
Alex Landau could tell you just how difficult it is to hold DPD officers accountable for such actions: He's been working on that issue for years, most recently with an effort to recall Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey for his failure to charge cops.
As reported in “Black and Blue,” our January 18, 2011 cover story, Landau was a nineteen-year-old Community College of Denver student when he was pulled over by police on January 15, 2009, allegedly for making an illegal left turn. Marijuana was subsequently found on Landau’s passenger, a fellow student named Addison Hunold, prompting the officers — Ricky Nixon, Randy Murr and Tiffany Middleton — to ask if they could search his trunk. Landau reportedly responded by stepping toward the officers and quizzing them about whether or not they had a warrant (he comes from a family of cops) — at which point they began punching him in the face. The attack caused Landau to fall, but the beating continued for several minutes, with one officer yelling, “He’s going for the gun.” (Landau was unarmed.) Once they finally stopped the assault, one officer reportedly put the following question to him: “Where’s that warrant now, you fucking nigger?”
A lawsuit over the incident was filed in January 2011, and Landau eventually received a $795,000 settlement from the City of Denver. But officers Nixon, Murr and Middleton were never punished for their actions in the incident, Landau notes. Nixon was canned in connection with his role in an alleged assault on four women at the Denver Diner, also in 2009. However, he was later reinstated. Murr was eventually fired for taking part in another high-profile excessive-force case involving Michael DeHerrera — but in 2013, the Civil Service Commission recommended that Murr be reinstated, complete with back pay. Landau protested that reinstatement two years ago, and he’s continued to stay involved in the issue of police accountability. “The discipline matrix allows an unlimited number of appeals,” he points out today.
Landau at a 2013 demonstration.
Photo by Danielle Lirette
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Landau is now an organizer with the Colorado Progressive Commission, and just led a sixty-day campaign to recall Morrissey, who “has not once indicted law enforcement personnel for excessive force or homicide in the eleven years he has held office,” according to the petition. On the day in early June that the group started the recall effort, Morrissey’s office announced that it would not indict the officers who shot and killed Jessica Hernandez on January 26.
On August 4, the group announced that it had fallen short of the 53,925 signatures needed. Far short. Morrissey’s office declined to comment on the recall efforts, but Landau is far from through talking about the topic. “Our recall effort is still a victory for the community,” he says. “We collected over 20,000 signatures and had even more conversations around the power, influence and impact the district attorney’s office has on the community. We also discussed the critical need to be involved in this district attorney election in 2016.”
Landau has already talked with University of Colorado Regent Michael Carrigan and former Manager of Safety/current Colorado legislator Beth McCann, two of the announced candidates in that 2016 race. Although he has yet to connect with third candidate Kenneth Boyd, “I will be reaching out to his office this week,” he says. And he knows where to find him: Boyd is already with the Denver DA’s office.