In recent months, several Denver police officers have faced allegations related to sexual misconduct on the job. Next week, one of the most prominent -- Stephanie Southard, accused of having sex 25-30 times while on-duty -- is scheduled to have her case heard. But while such matters are routinely open to the press and the public, this one will be closed in an effort to prevent what a rep with Denver's Civil Service Commission describes as a "media circus."
As we've reported, Southard's most recent stint as the subject of uncomfortable headlines wasn't her first. Back in November 2013, the Denver Post revealed that she had been charged with misdemeanor harassment owing to a June incident during which she's said to have socked another Denver cop, Nathan Sanchez, after he ended their affair.
An affidavit cited by the Post maintained that Southard walked up to the driver's side of his vehicle in a Glendale parking lot, and at the sight of his wedding ring, she "grabbed and hit Sanchez's face as he turned his head away," knocking off his glasses and leaving a scratch near his eyebrow in the process.
Southard denied these claims and was still on duty up until April 14, at which time she was fired for what CBS4 describes as "violating three department regulations including sexual misconduct and lying about having sex on duty."
Her partner in these escapades is said to have been Sanchez, who has resigned. He did so after apparently divulging that they'd had sex 25--30 times while on duty. But Southard has appealed her termination from the force, with a hearing scheduled for July 17 and 18 before the Civil Service Commission.
Given the amount of attention the case has garnered, you can bet reporters planned to attend -- but as CBS4 reveals, hearing officer Hazel Hanley has closed the session to both journalists and regular folks to avoid causing a stir. Stated reasons include Southard's "past and current mental state" and possible discomfort for Sanchez's wife, who will likely testify.
Not everyone is on board with this decision: Representatives from the Denver Management of Safety and the city attorney's office have filed objections.
If the hearing's closure was an effort to minimize attention on an embarrassment for the Denver Police Department, it appears to have backfired. Here's a CBS4 report about Southard from this past May.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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.