| News |

"Sloppy Police Work" and the Denver Jail

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

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

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.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.