Ten Recent Under-the-Radar Denver Police Resignations or Discipline Cases
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The Office of the Independent Monitor has released its 2015 semi-annual report, and it contains plenty of good news — or at least better news — for the Denver Police Department.
In the document, on view below, Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell praises the DPD for changing its policy toward shooting into moving vehicles (but warns that the new regs must be enforced) and salutes the department for tweaking best practices related to training.
Additionally, Mitchell points out that community and service complaints against the DPD dropped approximately 24 percent from the same period in 2014, while internal complaints tumbled by around 41 percent.
Thus far, however, little media attention has been paid to one of the most interesting sections of the report — an accounting of DPD resignations in the face of discipline investigations, as well as cases in which cops were suspended or punished in assorted ways for violating the rules.
Eleven cases are recapped, and of those, only one — Officer Choice Johnson's suspension after allegedly pushing a man down on some stairs near the 1Up arcade bar — made substantial noise in the press. Johnson objected to his suspension and a hearing officer ultimately waived his punishment; the City of Denver is appealing.
Below, get details from the report about the other ten incidents, which include plenty of newsworthy events — including a detective who quit after firing a gun in his home while his wife and children cowered in a bathroom. They're followed by the complete Office of the Independent Monitor report.
On June 8, 2014, a detective was arrested by the Thornton Police Department after police were called to his home for an alleged domestic violence incident. During this incident, he was allegedly intoxicated and fired six rounds from a handgun through the floor of a second story bedroom into a first story living room. Police found his wife and two children huddled together in a bathroom. He pled guilty to Prohibited Use of a Weapon, Reckless Endangerment and Harassment by Telephone and was sentenced to probation. As a condition of his probation, he was prohibited from carrying a weapon, thus disqualifying him from serving as a DPD officer. The detective resigned prior to a discipline finding.
On July 26, 2014, an officer took an unattended backpack from a station house without authorization or telling anyone, and placed it into the trunk of his service vehicle, instead of taking the property to the Property Bureau. He was seen on camera placing the backpack in a paper bag, taking it into the back of the parking lot, crouching down out of camera view, placing it in the trunk of his patrol car, and then bringing another bag back into the station. The backpack and its contents went missing. The officer also allegedly lied during the IAB investigation. the Officer resigned prior to a discipline finding.
On August 16, 2014, an off-duty officer was arrested at the pool of his apartment complex by law enforcement officers from another jurisdiction after 911 was called due to his extreme level of intoxication. The results of a portable breath test indicated that his blood alcohol level was 0.257. The officer was criminally charged and pled guilty to disorderly conduct. The officer resigned prior to a discipline finding.
On September 29, 2014, several officers responded to a 911 call in which a woman's ex-boyfriend, who she knew to carry a gun, allegedly broke into her home. Officers were warned previously that the suspect would not be taken alive and would engage in a shoot out with police. While transporting the victim and her children to a safe house, the officer drove the victim to three different locations where the victim believed the suspect might be. The suspect was seen kneeling beside his truck at the third location. The officer drove away to avoid being detected, but stopped after a short distance, while other officers arrived on the scene to make the arrest. The officer then left his police car to assist in the arrest, leaving the victim and two children unattended and potentially vulnerable. There were also concerns that he lied to IAB during the investigation of the incident. The officer resigned prior to a discipline finding.
Sometime between the night of November 27 and the early morning hours of November 28, 2014, an off-duty officer threw his intimate partner's belongings from a balcony, possibly including his partner's car keys. The car went missing the next day. The officer also allegedly lied to police during their investigation. He was also alleged to have carried his service weapon while intoxicated, displaying it in a bar, and committing offensive acts. The officer resigned prior to a discipline finding.
Other Significant Cases, Including Suspensions for Ten or More Days:
On September 2, 2014, several officers responded to a disturbance call between two families. A victim mistakenly identified an individual as being involved in the disturbance. When officers attempted to contact him, he fled into a home where officers were able to restrain and place him into custody. During the encounter, an officer confronted a female at the scene who was upset with the police presence. The officer yelled and inappropriately continued to escalate the argument. The officer also failed to provide his name and badge number in writing after individuals at the scene requested it. The officer has prior sustained complaints and was thus suspended for ten days and fined two days' pay.
In June 2009, a detective was assigned to conduct a follow-up investigation of a cold case. The District Attorney's Office requested that the detective obtain an arrest warrant for the suspect, but the detective did not obtain the warrant in a timely manner. The detective was suspended for ten days.
On October 2, 2014, several officers and an ambulance responded to an office to assist with a male who was thought to be a suicide risk. One officer entered the office carrying a pepper ball gun without the safety engaged. The officers handcuffed the man without incident. While waiting for the elevator to transport the man from the building, the officer accidentally discharged the weapon and a single pepper-ball projectile was fired in the hallway. Several parties that were in the area, including the handcuffed individual and his case manager, were exposed to the oleoresign capsicum ("OC," or pepper powder) from the pepper ball. The officer was suspended for ten days and fined four days' time, to run concurrently. The officer appealed this decision, and a Hearing Officer affirmed the four days of fined time but reversed the suspension. The office of the Executive Director of Safety appealed the Hearing Officer's decision and that appeal is pending.
On January 14, 2015, an officer responded to a hit-and-run accident through property damage to a residential fence. The officer failed to conduct a thorough investigation and failed to accurately complete a required report. The report omitted the presence of a broken mirror at the scene and potential video evidence from a nearby surveillance camera. Information contained on the mirror could have been used to identify the make and model of the suspect's vehicle and the surveillance video was found to show the suspect taking a turn too sharply and crashing into the fence. The officer, who had an extensive disciplinary history, received two ten-day suspensions to run concurrently. The officer has appealed one aspect of this decision.
On February 11, 2015, several officers were involved in a sting operation targeting prostitution customers. During a break, a male officer made an inappropriate comment to a female officer about her involvement in the operation. Although a supervisor ordered the male officer to have no further contact with the female officer, the male officer contacted her through text messages and a phone call. The officer received a ten-day suspension for disobeying an order and was fined two days' pay for failing to demonstrate respect for a fellow officer.