Update below: Yesterday's Denver Police news conference was among the odder in recent memory -- but also among the more welcome. The DPD's concession that Representative Laura Bradford had received special privileges rather than being busted for a DUI, and its willingness to offer details about how it happened, suggests that new police chief Robert White is actually serious about transparency.
Which is not to say that the actions of a DPD supervisor in the incident are laudable. As reported by 9News, an officer who stopped Bradford on January 25 for making an illegal turn not far from the Capitol smelled alcohol on her breath and wanted to arrest her for suspicion of driving under the influence. However, he phoned a sergeant first after seeing Bradford's legislative license plates, at which point a potential bust went in a very different direction.
The sergeant in question called a cab for Bradford and even retrieved a gun from her car; possession of the weapon was a misdemeanor offense if she was found to be under the influence.
Fortunately, the officer in question chose to speak up -- and the DPD brass directed Lieutenant Matt Murray to share his information in a timely manner rather than trying to suppress it. We've phoned Murray on the subject; when and if he responds to our interview request, we'll update this post.
In the meantime, the question of politicians being treated as if they're more equal than the rest of us remains a viable one. In public comments Monday, Bradford insisted that she didn't invoke an arcane "legislative privileges" law to put the kibosh on her arrest -- something the DPD confirmed. However, there's no doubt the sergeant rolled out the red carpet for her, acting as a de facto valet dedicated to hushing up a little indiscretion.
The incident echoes the story of Senator Suzanne Williams, who was involved in a December 2010 car crash in Texas that killed a woman who was seven months pregnant (the baby survived). But while troopers felt a criminally negligent homicide charge was justified, Williams ultimately received three tickets and no indictment.
Speaker of the House Frank McNulty is making noises that imply the legislative privileges law could be endangered. But axing it won't eliminate the possibility of politicians getting what Bradford received in this case -- an all-but-free ride.
Update, 7:51 a.m. February 1: Just spoke with Lieutenant Matt Murray, the Denver Police spokesman who starred in yesterday's press conference, and he confirmed that transparency on the part of new police chief Robert White and the department as a whole was a subtext of the event.
"That's exactly what he intended," Murray says. "The only negative, really, is that we won't always know everything when we come out" and speak about incidents early in the process. "We're going to have to ask for the patience of the press about that. But a black eye is not an excuse for not talking. We will talk quickly."
Murray adds that in this case, White "also felt it was important to exonerate the representative, and clarify what happened" -- a reference to the DPD's confirmation that Laura Bradford didn't ask for special treatment after being stopped by an officer for making an illegal turn near the State Capitol. After all, Murray adds, "What we were saying was driving the conversation in an improper direction.
"The chief is big on accountability," he goes on. "The department will be held accountable, as well as individuals. He expects them to take responsibility for their actions."
Expect more announcements like this in the future. "You will see it on a consistent basis," Murray says, noting that in the case of yesterday's news conference, "There was no hesitation" on White's part. "He wanted me to get the information out yesterday. We couldn't do it fast enough for him."
Will such quick action also translate to internal investigations like the one currently focusing on the sergeant who called Bradford a cab and retrieved a gun from her car? Murray can't guarantee it, since he says some of the systems in place -- including "more civilian oversight than he's seen anywhere" -- can slow down the process. But, he says, "I expect things will be quicker than we're used to seeing."
Also important, from Murray's perspective, was the praise White showered on the officer who reported about the sergeant's actions. "He wants to reinforce that's the right thing to do," Murray allows. "We want to create a culture where that's expected, not the exception."
Look below to see a 9News report on the subject, as well as the bio from Bradford's campaign website, which features the line, "I presume you would like to know about me and my character."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Welcome! I'm delighted you have chosen to visit my site. I presume you would like to know about me and my character.
Having lived on the Western Slope for more than 25 years, my experience with local issues and concerns has been extensive. As a member of the Colorado Women's Economic Development council from 1995 until 2000 I was able to contribute to the discussion of the needs of Colorado businesses to help grow our economy while maintaining our superior way of life. Governor Owens appointed me Chair of the committee in the Spring of 1999 which afforded me additional insight into the process of government.
As a small business owner, having founded ProSafe Products in 1987, I know the economics of running a business; e.g. meeting a payroll, maintaining a workforce, communicating with the customers as well as the vendors, applying for patents, copyrights and trademarks. In 1998 I was selected to join the Women's Success Forum titled Leading in a Changing World at the Daniel's College of Business, University of Denver. Small business is the backbone of our economy and it was never more evident than when I chaired the Mesa County Revolving Loan Fund Administration loan review committee. As matter of fact, I was chosen to represent Colorado in the book Women Who Mean Business published in February 1999. All of these experiences have enhanced my awareness of the business needs of this community and its citizens.
Communities cannot grow without individuals who are willing to step forward and lead. I know the responsibility of sharing my talents with the community and have been involved with the Republican Party for 15 years, serving as a Delegate and elected board positions as well as Chair of the House District 55 in 2002. My love of music prompted me to serve as treasure of the Messiah Choral Society and I assisted my church in raising the funds necessary for the English Hand Bell choir which I was the director of.
The life I have shared with my wonderful husband Linton Mathews and our children and grandchildren has been nothing short of remarkable. We began a tree farm together in 2006 on our land near Collbran. Our nursery is licensed, and has more than 2400 tress on it. We love the land and the trees and our picturesque, peaceful surroundings.
I am ready to give back to my community and represent the Western Slope's interests in Denver. Utilizing the strong conservative values I share with many of you I will begin to restore some conservative sense to the Colorado Legislature.
However, I need your support! First, I need your vote. Additionally, I need you to share your time, talents and treasures to help assure the return of conservative representation in the Colorado Legislature.
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
More from our News archive: "Mary Celeste, county judge, cited by Denver cops for leaving granddaughter in hot car."