How Brady Letters Evolved Into a Blacklist for Suspect Cops

Jack Gardner's 2014 mug shot.
Jack Gardner's 2014 mug shot. File photo
The Boulder County District Attorney's Office currently has a list of thirteen local law enforcement officers who've each received what is known as a Brady letter, a document that identifies them as suffering from possible credibility issues should they be called to testify at trial.

The impact of the letters, which involve folks who've made serious missteps involving criminal convictions or lesser infractions pertaining to violations of rules or policies, can vary widely. Many agencies will refuse to employ applicants with a Brady letter, period. Others may overlook one. And plenty have no idea that an officer wears the mark of Brady and may unwittingly hire her or him anyhow — which is why Boulder Assistant District Attorney Ken Kupfner began keeping track of letter recipients in his jurisdiction circa 2014.

"There's not a central database where we can find out if a newly hired officer was ever in a position where a district attorney issued a Brady letter," Kupfner says. "That's why we wanted to maintain a historical record — because that hadn't traditionally been done."

Brady letters are named in reference to Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the justices "said prosecutors are required to hand over any kind of exculpatory information," Kupfner explains. "So if officers have something we're aware of that may affect their truthfulness, we're obligated under the Supreme Court and Rule 16 under the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedures to turn it over."

Among the first to wind up on Kupfner's Brady inventory was Jack Gardner, a longtime detective with the Boulder Police Department who was arrested in October 2014 for allegedly warning a child-luring suspect in advance to prevent him from becoming ensnared in a sting operation; his arrest affidavit is accessible below. The following year, Gardner was sentenced to three years' probation after his conviction on a trio of misdemeanors.

The same month Gardner was busted, his colleague, Boulder police officer Ryan Wagner, was fitted for cuffs in relation to accusations of stalking. In 2016, he earned a mix of probation and jail time for the offenses.

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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