Michael Hancock wants cop reinstatement in Michael DeHerrera case appealed, others react

Yesterday, we noted in our post about the reinstatement of cops fired for beating Michael DeHerrera that we'd reached out to spokespeople for Mayor Michael Hancock to get his take.

That response came yesterday evening, with Hancock calling for an appeal of the ruling -- and he wasn't the only one reacting to the case.

As we've reported, an April 2009 video shows DeHerrera talking on a cell phone when Denver Police Officer Devin Sparks and Corporal Randy Murr clobber him. More than a year later, then-Manager of Safety Ron Perea determined that Sparks and Murr should be suspended for three days but not fired -- a decision so controversial that he soon resigned. In March 2011, Charley Garcia, successor to the Manager of Safety who immediately followed Perea, came to a very different conclusion, sacking the two cops. But Sparks and Murr appealed the decision, and the Denver Civil Service Commission sided with them this week. The rationale: Because the men had already accepted Perea's edict, Garcia's punishment for the same offense was the equivalent of double jeopardy.

Immediately after the panel's ruling, interim Manager of Safety Ashley Kilroy released a statement supporting the decision to give Sparks and Murr the heave-ho. But the mayor's office was silent until yesterday evening, when it released this statement:

"In light of the Civil Service Commission's ruling to overturn the Manager of Safety's decision to terminate Officers Sparks and Murr, I have instructed the City Attorney to issue a notice of appeal to the commission; and further instructed him to issue a motion to attempt to "Stay" the reinstatement of the officers. We are going to vigorously challenge this decision. We have to send a clear message that we will not tolerate the use of excessive force if we are to build the kind of law enforcement department we all want and deserve."

We also sought out reactions from other observers. Richard Rosenthal, the city's Independent Monitor, as well as a Westword profile subject who's recommended harsher punishment for some cops involved in dubious incidents, declined to comment pending a formal appeal. However, Erik Maulbetsch, the coordinator for the Race to Justice arm of the local American Civil Liberties Union branch, offered this:

"The people of Denver should not have to pay the price for a bureaucrat who failed to do his job. Ron Perea's failure to fire Officers Murr and Sparks for their brutal beating of Michael DeHerrera and their despicable cover-up of the assault rightly cost Perea his job. Both officers received nothing more than slaps on the wrist and were permitted to continue terrorizing the residents of Denver. This wasn't an isolated incident -- just three months earlier, Officer Murr was one of a trio of officers who beat Community College of Denver student Alex Landau so badly that the city ended up settling for nearly $800,000. With the reinstatement of these officers, Denver took a step backward."

And then there's a tough take from David, a spokesman for West Denver Copwatch, an organization that's been a virulent critic of alleged police brutality in Denver:

Denver's decision to reinstate officers Murr and Sparks is outrageous, despicable and inexcusable. It is further proof that Denver officers can operate with impunity without fear of any reprisal, despite their atrocious track record of violence, intimidation and murder. Our communities are not safe and this decision indicates that not only is DPD the villain, but so are the mayors office, the City and district attorney's office, the Manager of safety and every other entity that fails to protect the community while simultaneously protecting known civil rights abusers.

More from our News archive: "Police beating? Reasonable force? Weird camera moves?: Inside the Michael DeHerrera video."

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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