Jeremy Ownbey, a Denver police officer who narrowly avoided being fired for a 2014 brawl at what's been described as a swingers' party, has officially been canned by the Denver Police Department.
The reason: an alleged barrage of sexually themed jokes and other harassing remarks aimed at a DPD intern during an eight-hour period last summer. Among other things, Ownbey is said to have referred to her on multiple occasions as a "whore" and talked about her preferred type of penis.
Ownbey, who is not commenting about the incident, has appealed his dismissal.
In January, Westword reported that Ownbey was under investigation, with DPD spokesperson Sonny Jackson telling us he had been "assigned to home" during the process. However, Jackson declined to go into any specifics about the case, saying no information could be released until the inquiry was completed.
The March 27 "Departmental Order of Disciplinary Action" in the Ownbey matter, written by Deputy Director of Safety Mary Dulacki and originally obtained by Denver7, provides plenty of details to fill the gaps. In the end, Dulacki determined that his actions constituted a Category F violation on the DPD's disciplinary matrix, which includes "any violation of law, rule or policy which...constitutes a willful and wanton disregard of Department values; or involves any act which demonstrates a serious lack of the integrity, ethics or character related to an officer’s fitness to hold the position of police officer; or involves egregious misconduct substantially contrary to the standards of conduct reasonably expected of one whose sworn duty is to uphold the law; or involves any conduct which constitutes the failure to adhere to any contractual condition of employment or requirement of certification mandated by law."
The stipulated penalty for a Category F violation is termination, with mitigated punishment set at a ninety-day suspension. However, Ownbey had previously been found guilty for Category F actions during the aforementioned swingers incident: In June 2014, he was arrested in Aurora after a slugfest that also involved his wife, Jamie Ownbey, a fellow officer, Steven Sloan, and Sloan's wife amid a swinging scenario gone awry. Because Ownbey accepted a ninety-day suspension for his behavior in 2016, his termination was held in abeyance for a two-year period that ended in March 2018 — only a few months before his ride-along with the intern on July 3. As such, a suspension isn't an option this time around.
According to the departmental order, Ownbey brought up his past indiscretions to the intern, who had heard that he "doesn't have a filter." The narrative states that he "told her he did not usually have interns assigned to ride with him. When asked why, Officer Ownbey informed her of the details of a prior IA investigation that he described as portrayed by the media as a 'swinger event,' which resulted in him almost getting fired."
During the subsequent pre-disciplinary hearing about his behavior, Ownbey said this allusion to his near-sacking "set the tone for the day," causing him to "challenge [the intern] to being offensive" with "something much worse than anything she could have read about me in the news" as a way of deflecting attention away from the earlier stories about him.
He definitely managed to do so. While responding to a missing-person call at a hotel on East 45th Avenue, Ownbey told the front-desk clerk that the intern was "a prostitute who had earlier escaped his custody and run into the hotel." This supposed witticism was captured on a body-worn camera, but Department of Safety spokeswoman Kelli Christensen, corresponding via email, writes that "the video contains the image and voice of the intern, and because she is a victim of sexual harassment, her identity is statutorily protected. Therefore, the video will not be released."
The intern lists plenty of other gags along these lines. For instance, she told investigators that Ownbey dubbed her "the hot blonde intern" and "jokingly called her a whore twice." Along these lines, he playfully hinted "that she could make a lot of money on the street and offered to 'leave [her] off here'" in order to do so.
The intern also said Ownbey "brought up the topics of waxing and laser hair removal" in the context of discussing whether or not she shaved her armpits. He insisted that "he had used those processes on his genitalia and suggested she should explore those options."
More dialogue involved his verbally expressed excitement over the prospect of giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and his theory that she preferred "uncircumcised, dirty" male genitalia.
At first, the intern was reluctant to complain about Ownbey because, the report reveals, she hoped to become a member of the Denver Police Department someday and didn't want to get a reputation as a "snitch." She is not currently a Denver police officer, and to Christensen's knowledge, she has not applied to become one.
For his part, Ownbey is quoted in the order as acknowledging that some of his comments were "rude" and "could be repulsive to some"; others could be considered "completely inappropriate in any setting." He characterized his conduct as "unbecoming of himself."
Despite these admissions, Dulacki determined that Ownbey "has not learned from his prior disciplinary action" and recommended that he be fired, which he was. A statement issued by the Department of Safety reads: "Officer Ownbey was dismissed for engaging in behavior towards a female civilian intern that was contrary to the values of the Denver Police Department and a violation of DPD policies. We understand that Officer Ownbey has exercised his right to appeal this decision, so will not offer any further comment at this time."
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