At least 365 former law enforcers have been banned from serving as police officers in Colorado, and the majority of them haven't been publicly identified until now. In addition, there appear to be others who fit the standard for what's officially known as decertification in the state but aren't listed on the most comprehensive database ever created to identify American cops gone wrong.
In the January 31 post "How Brady Letters Evolved Into a Blacklist for Suspect Cops," we explored the challenges facing law enforcement agencies trying to avoid employing officers who've broken rules, regulations or even the law while in uniform at departments elsewhere. As Boulder Assistant District Attorney Ken Kupfner told us, "There's not a central database where we can find out if a newly hired officer was ever in a position where a district attorney issued a Brady letter" — a document that identifies individuals who might suffer credibility problems should they be called to testify at trial. For that reason, Kupfner began tracking recipients of Brady letters in 2014 and created a running list for the Boulder DA's office.
Many agencies will refuse to employ applicants with a Brady letter, period. Others may overlook one. But plenty have no idea that an officer wears the mark of Brady and may unwittingly hire her or him anyhow, since there's no universally accessible repository for information about questionable cops, including those for whom a credibility shortfall is only one of many reasons administrators may not want to give them a gun and a badge.
Recognizing this, USA Today built what it accurately describes as "the biggest collection of police accountability records ever assembled." In all, the publication found more than 30,000 police officers banned in 44 states, including Colorado. Better yet, the database that contains the details about them is searchable — and our inquiry in regard to Colorado yielded the aforementioned 365 names, which we've listed alphabetically in a document accessible at the bottom of this post.
A few of the monikers will be familiar to Westword readers. In 2009, former Denver Police Department officer Joe Bini pleaded guilty to accusations that he paid two teenage girls to have sex while he watched. In 2012, ex-Arapahoe County sheriff Pat Sullivan admitted to drug possession and soliciting a prostitute. The next year, another onetime DPD cop, Hector Paez, was convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault while on duty; his victim finally won a civil judgment against him last November. And in 2014, Boulder Police Detective Jack Gardner was busted for allegedly forewarning a child-luring suspect about a sting operation — an act that led to him winding up on the Boulder DA's Brady letter roster.
Other Colorado cops in the USA Today database who previously found themselves in the press include ex-DPD officer Kachina McAlexander, who was charged with attempted aggravated assault after squeezing off shots at fellow cops in South Dakota in the wake of a 2009 welfare check. And in 2011, Darrell Lingle, a former law enforcer in Lamar and Kiowa County, was charged with sexually assaulting a child.
But plenty of cops whose arrests or convictions were widely reported in Colorado aren't in the database. Among them are Mark Beluscak, busted on suspicion of child abuse in 2014; Joseph Ellsworth, an ex-Denver cop turned sex offender accused of attempted sexual assault on a child that same year; Tyler Mason, a Boulder County Sheriff's officer who earned a probationary sentence in 2017 for trying to smuggle a marijuana edible into the local jail; Denver Police's Ryan Burke, accused of harassing a former girlfriend in public circa 2017; and former Lakewood Police Department officer Randall Butler, who resigned last December after his arrest for alleged sexual assault.
Since Butler's case is still pending, his absence from the decertification list is understandable. But other offenders appear to have simply fallen through the cracks, including former Commerce City police officer John Reinhart, whose two unlawful-sexual-contact convictions were finalized in January 2018. And even though his violations were misdemeanors, they still qualify for prohibiting a police officer in Colorado. The "Decertifying Misdemeanors" page on the state's website notes that "an individual convicted of any felony may not be certified in Colorado" — but the same is true for convictions on more than forty misdemeanors, ranging from unlawful sexual contact and indecent exposure to perjury and failure to obey a jury summons.
Such minor matters seldom appear in the media, but they're spelled out in the minutes of board meetings for Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which approves revoking certifications for law enforcers. Such sessions make up the lion's share of supporting documentation for Colorado's entries in the USA Today database, which can also be viewed below. But here are synopses for officer decertifications for one recent year, 2014.
2014 misdemeanor decertifications
1. Robert Frank Bankenstein. On September 26, 2013, Respondent pled guilty to 1 count of Harassment/Strike-Shove-Kick, a class 3 misdemeanor
2. Al K. Joyce. On November 12, 2013, Respondent pled guilty to 1 count of Obstructing a Peace Officer, a class 2 misdemeanor.
3. William Robert Metzler. On January 16, 2014, Respondent was convicted of 2 counts of Sexual Contact — No Consent.
4. Eric Alan Seymore. On September 19, 2013, The Respondent pled guilty to 1 count of Harassment-repeat Telephone Calls, a class 3 misdemeanor.
2014 felony decertifications
1. John Jose Romero. On July 1, 2013, Respondent pled guilty to and was convicted of one count of Burglary, a class 5 felony.
2. Robert Michael French. On January 17, 2014, Respondent pled guilty to one count of Sexual Exploitation/child-poss Material, a class 6 felony.
3. Wendy Hansen. On March 30, 2012, Respondent pled guilty to and was convicted of one count of Felony Menacing-real/simulated Weapon, a class 5 felony.
4. David Lee Russell. On July 1, 2013, Respondent pled guilty to and was convicted of three counts of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, a class 4 felony.
5. Roger Alan Pacheco. On January 8, 2013, Respondent pled guilty to one count of Stalking–Emotional Distress, a class 5 felony.
There are literally hundreds of other instances in which Colorado police officers violated their responsibility to protect and serve. Suffering decertification in 2015 for a felony was Jeffrey Frank Warkocz (obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or deceit) and five others who committed misdemeanors. Bounced for felonies the next year were Timothy Joseph Kelly (sexual exploitation of a child and video with twenty-plus items), Kisha Aristide (computer crime), James Allen Klein (forgery) and Boulder's Jack Gardner, mentioned above, along with four more cops who registered misdemeanor convictions.
How many others who should also be banned in Colorado are still working in law enforcement here or in other states? We simply don't know. But the ones cited in these documents will have a much tougher time flying under the radar.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.