Denver fights David Lane policy for cops to put away their guns during depositions

Last week, a motion for a protective order was filed on behalf of the City and County of Denver, Denver cop Shawn Miller and two other "unknown Denver Police Department officers."

The issue? Attorney David Lane, who represents Jason Anthony Graber in a case against the named parties, wants Miller to put away his gun while providing a deposition -- and Miller doesn't want to do it.

Why did Lane institute the policy? Because "we sue cops who beat people up, who maim people, who hurt citizens unlawfully," he says.

In other words, Lane continues, "we sue bad cops. And when we're suing them, they feel very threatened. Their houses and careers are on the line, so depositions can get very contentious. When I'm cross-examining cops about their misconduct, past and present, they get angry, and I don't wish to depose angry people who have a long history of violent behavior while they're wearing a gun strapped to their waist."

For Lane, what he describes as a "particularly heated deposition with a cop" about six months ago convinced him that something needed to be done. For each deposition in his office since then, he's asked officers to put their sidearm in "a lock box, a steel box my office manager has," he notes. "He can go get it pretty quickly, but he just can't reach for his holster and pull it out."

Since then, officers he's deposed have "groused and grumbled" about being made to put their gun away, "but they've done it," Lane says.

In this case, however, Miller, his representatives and/or Denver officials objected -- hence the motion for a protective order linked above. At this writing, Luis Corchado, a supervisor in the litigation section of the Denver City Attorney's Office, has not had a chance to comment, but the reasoning for fighting Lane's request is spelled out in the document. A key example reads:

"The Denver Police Department Operations Manual, at section 3.01, provides: 'Officers are held to be always on duty.' This 'always on duty' mandate is repeated in the Department's Rules and Reuglation at RR-107. Moreover, RR-805 provides that 'Officers shall carry their bade and I.D. card and be armed at all times.' (The emphasis is in the original.)

Lane isn't persuaded by this argument.

"In the federal courthouse, they're not allowed to be armed," he says. "They're willing to go to the federal courthouse and disarm. So that throws a hole in their theory that they're required to be armed 24-7. I asked them to clarify that, but they have not."

According to Lane, he's going to fight this request, although he hasn't filed any paperwork to that effect thus far. The bottom line?

"We're suing Shawn Miller for two instances of gross brutality, and he doesn't want to give up his gun to be deposed," Lane maintains. "The city filed, we're going to respond, and then the judge will decide the issue in federal court."

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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