Police brutality: Cop reinstated before city has completed Alex Landau inquiry
The decision of the Civil Service Commission to reinstate cops Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine, who'd been sacked over an alleged 2009 brutality incident at the Denver Diner, is controversial in and of itself.
But this twist becomes even more incendiary considering that Nixon was also involved in the 2009 beating of Alex Landau -- and a promised investigation into that incident, which prompted a $795,000 settlement, still hasn't been completed.
According to a lawsuit filed last year, Denver Police officers Nixon and Devine collectively roughed up and maced four women at the Denver Diner in July 2009. Last September, their attorney, Siddhartha Rathod, stressed that none of the women had done anything wrong, and one had actually been the victim of an assault prior to police involvement. He also accused Nixon and Devine of falsifying reports and fabricating charges. As a result, three of the women entered guilty pleas in an effort to make the accusations go away -- actions they subsequently tried to withdraw.
In April 2011, then-Manager of Safety Charles Garcia fired Nixon and Devine for the alleged falsehoods. However, as the Denver Post reports in a piece linked above, the commission determined that the inaccuracies in their reports were not submitted with "an intent to deceive or hide the truth." As such, the officers have been reinstated and will receive back pay and benefits.
The next month, the Denver City Council voted to pay Landau $795,000 for an assault that took place in January 2009, approximately six months before the Denver Diner incident. At that time, Nixon (who was also involved in a 2006 fatal shooting) stopped Landau for a minor traffic infraction, during which he attempted to search the vehicle's trunk. When Landau asked Nixon if he had a warrant authorizing him to do so, the officer allegedly responded by punching him in the face -- a pummeling that was joined by two other officers who subsequently arrived at the scene. Landau sustained a broken nose, lacerations and closed-head injuries at their hands.
Didn't the settlement close that case? No, says John Holland, an attorney who worked with Landau. A press release marking the council's approval of payment noted that "the Police Department and City have also agreed, as part of this settlement, that the re-opened IAB investigation of the involved officers in this case will be completed, including as to Randy Murr and Ricky Nixon, who have now both been fired."
What's the status of that investigation? Today, Holland was told by city officials that "they are still working on it." But this response hardly satisfies him.
"I'm not saying it isn't being done," he stresses. "I'm saying it hasn't been done. And it has gone on too long."
Page down to read more of our interview with attorney Holland. As a result, Nixon, who might have been fired for his actions in the Landau case had he not already have gotten sacked, is back on the job -- and the inquiry into a matter that cost the taxpayers of Denver more than three-quarters-of-a-million-dollars appears to have fallen through the cracks.
Holland sees this as objectionable in the extreme. "There was a reinstatement process going on at the same time we have a very serious, incomplete investigation that bears directly on it," he maintains. "The City agreed in the settlement of Alex's case that the internal affairs investigation regarding the incident would continue to conclusion, and that they would reach findings concerning the involvement of all the officers," including Nixon. "But there have been no findings. And that needs to be addressed."
Did officials see the payment to Landau as concluding the matter? If they did, Holland believes, they shouldn't have.
"I don't think the city people perceived the case was ending with a settlement to make it go away," he allows. "The city specifically agreed that it would complete the internal affairs investigation; they agreed that it was important to do. At the time, both officers had already been terminated, but it was understood that the IAB investigation would be completed in respect to them even in that status."
Eight months have passed since the settlement, and while this delay may not seem overly egregious in and of itself, Holland says "you have to see it in context. The complaint has been pending since January 2009, and the case was filed in January 2011. So it isn't like there was a shortage of time for them to look into such a serious matter."
Holland concludes with a pair of questions: "If we're ever going to clean up this police stuff, don't we need to have some consistency in the handling of these investigations? Doesn't the city have to keep its promises?"
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