"Sloppy Police Work" and the Denver Jail

Sure, the Denver jail has its problems, including denying cancer patients essential pain medication and detaining people after they've supposedly been released -- problems we explored in the saga of Tim Thomason, published in the July 31 Westword. But to understand how people get locked up in the local hoosegow in case after case of mistaken identity, you need to look at some of the specific horror stories in a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU August 11 against the City and County of Denver, charging "recklessly sloppy police work."

The suit describes foul-ups involving five innocent people, who spent up to 26 days in jail for someone else's crimes, thanks to what can only be characterized as lazy, indifferent, and utterly wrongheaded enforcement actions taken by Denver's finest. For example:

-- A Denver detective arrested Christina Ann FourHorn on an assault and robbery warrant, ignoring a few minor details. FourHorn is seven years older and 90 pounds heavier than the suspect and lacked the identifying tattoos.

-- Another ACLU client, Muse Jama, spent 9 days in jail and was booked under the name of Ahmed Alia, someone he'd never met. When released, the $80 confiscated from him was returned in the form of a check -- made out to Ahmed Alia.

-- Jose Ernesto Ibarra didn't have the name, date of birth, or physical description of the person authorities were seeking. Yet he spent 26 days in custody, and his family had to pay the $274 worth of traffic fines owed by the suspect before he could be released.

-- Samuel Powell Moore was arrested four times under an Aurora warrant for another man, William Douglas Pipkin. The fourth time was last November -- three years after Pipkin had died.

-- Dennis Michael Smith, a high school teacher, went to the Denver County Jail to visit a former student. Deputies who inspected his driver's license at the jail decided he was really Dennis Allen Smith. D.M. Smith had been confused with the other Smith before and kept a letter from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in his car explaining the difference, but the deputies wouldn't let Smith's companion retrieve the letter from the car. Instead, they arrested him.

Nice work, guys. We know anyone can make a mistake, even a boneheaded one. But the ACLU maintains that inadequate training and supervision within the Denver cop shop is the main reason the same mistakes keep getting made over and over. -- Alan Prendergast

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