Benita Packard, Denver cop, recommended for firing over Laura Bradford incident?

In January, the Denver Police Department held an extraordinary press conference apologizing for actions of a sergeant after a traffic stop involving Representative Laura Bradford. Now, CBS4 is reporting that Chief Robert White has recommended that Benita Packard, the sarge at the center of the incident, be fired. But the DPD isn't confirming that at this writing.

According to DPD spokeswoman Detective Raquel Lopez, Packard has been "reassigned pending the final outcome of the disciplinary process."

The event at the center of the controversy took place on January 25. On that date, as we've reported, Bradford, a Grand Junction Republican who dropped a reelection bid in March, was stopped by an officer identified by CBS4 as Brian Klaus for making an illegal turn not far from the Capitol. He subsequently smelled alcohol on her breath and wanted to arrest her for suspicion of driving under the influence. But after seeing Bradford's legislative license plates, he phoned Packard first.

According to a report about the incident cited by CBS4, Packard told Klaus not to bust Bradford for a DUI. Instead, she called a cab for the representative and even retrieved a gun from her car, the possession of which would have been a misdemeanor offense had Bradford been found to have been driving while intoxicated.

A media kerfuffle broke out after this news reached the public, and rather than dodging questions about it, the DPD stood before the press and admitted that the matter had been mishandled. At the time, Lieutenant Matt Murray, an aide to Chief White, told us this approach symbolized the department's new commitment to transparency. "The chief is big on accountability," he stressed. "The department will be held accountable, as well as individuals. He expects them to take responsibility for their actions."

Should Packard be fired over her actions in the Bradford case, this philosophy will be reinforced. But even if the sources cited by CBS4's Brian Maass are accurate, the decision won't be White's alone. The recommendation would first go to the Manager of Safety's office, which would have two weeks to sign off on it or reduce it to a lesser form of discipline -- a suspension or a rank reduction, perhaps. The Denver Police Protective Association's Nick Rogers tells Maass that he sees the latter as more fitting than termination.

In the meantime, Packard, who had no comment for CBS4, is waiting to learn her fate while working an unspecified but unfamiliar job at the department she's served since 1982. Here's the Maass report.

More from our Politics archive: "Laura Bradford: Denver Police apology for special treatment step toward openness."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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