In April 2009, Michael DeHerrera was talking on a cell phone when Officer Devin Sparks began wailing on him, apparently without provocation -- an incident captured in a video on view below. Since release of the footage, observers concerned with excessive-force complaints have called for Sparks's firing -- and now, Police Chief Gerald Whitman has reportedly come to the same conclusion. But is the timing suspect?
Nick Rogers, president of the Police Protective Association, certainly thinks so. Rogers, who shared Whitman's decision with the Denver Post, which broke the story, believes the chief "appears to be bowing to pressure to resolve the case from the media, the public or the Office of Independent Monitor, who monitors internal affairs investigations," according to the article linked above.
Is Whitman also afraid the bad PR associated with the DeHerrera attack will doom him once a new mayor is elected? If not, he should be. In interviews with Westword, numerous major candidates have weighed in on excessive force complaints against the Denver Police Department, with several arguing for new blood atop the DPD.
Examples? City councilman Michael Hancock said, "I believe the next step is to bring about change through a change of leadership in the police department." Likewise, Theresa Spahn told us that while she thinks "our current chief has made a lot of contributions," she feels "he has been unable to take care of that problem, and it's a serious problem. Citizens want change, and it starts at the top." And even though Chris Romer didn't pledge to give Whitman the sack, he stressed that "there will be changes in personnel," potentially including higher-ups among Denver police.
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At this point, canning Sparks may not be enough to keep the chief in charge under a new administration. But whatever happens to this particular officer, Whitman's future will likely be shaped in part by the following clip:
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Denver Police Department announcement on reopening the DeHerrera investigation."