Schmuck of the Week

Ron Perea, 2010 Shmuck of the Year nominee

Westword is asking readers to help us select a Shmuck of the Year by rolling out a new candidate each week throughout the month of December.

The winner -- loser -- will be announced on January 3. Our first three candidates were Josh McDaniels, Scott McInnis and Osama-hunter Gary Faulkner.

This week, say hello to Ron Perea, Denver's former Manager of Safety -- at least for three months:

Perea inherited a lot of problems when he took over as the city's Manager of Safety in June, but he managed to make those problems much worse during his short tenure.

The first sign of trouble came when Perea -- whose job was to oversee Denver's police, sheriff and fire departments -- suspended officer Eric Sellers for 45 days without pay; a police investigation had determined that Sellars had beaten a 23-year-old man who had complained to the officer. Community activists were outraged by what they saw as light punishment; the city attorney's office had also warned Perea that he needed to come down hard on Sellars in order to uphold a recently implemented discipline system.

Then in August, Perea declined to fire two officers who had been videotaped beating Michel DeHerrera in LoDo for what appeared to be no reason, and then covering it up; the video was circulated around the world. The two officers, Devin Sparks and Randy Murr, were docked three days' pay, and Perea determined that they hadn't used excessive force. That decision created even more of an uproar, prompting the city to rescind its order on Sellars and to reopen the internal investigation of Sparks and Murr.

Facing intense pressure from the public, Perea resigned. Mayor John Hickenlooper, who was running for governor, said the decision was Perea's. Hickenlooper also said he'd asked the FBI to look into the case, but that has never happened; the city has yet to complete its investigation.

There are plenty of people to blame for the way these two instances of police brutality were handled, including Hickenlooper, the chief of police and other city officials -- but the most severe beating was reserved for Perea.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes