Vicki Ferrari second Denver cop/American Gladiator contestant sued for excessive force

Page 2 of 2

Ferrari is among the Denver Police Department's more high-profile officers, thanks in part to her 2008 American Gladiators stint. A show blog describes her like so:

Vicki is a 35-year-old narcotics officer from Denver, Colorado. She comes from a police family (her husband is a cop as well). Nicknamed "pitbull" by the guys at the precinct, Vicki is charming and easygoing with a lightening-quick temper. She is best friends with contender and police officer Abbe Dorn.

Following her exit from the program, Ferrari became a member of the DPD public information office. According to Lieutenant Matt Murray, speaking for the department and Ferrari at her request, she's also a part-time traffic reporter for 9News -- an affiliation she touts on her Facebook page.

The suit against Ferrari was filed by high-profile attorney David Lane, whose clients have included controversial former CU professor Ward Churchill, Richard "Balloon Boy Dad" Heene and Tim Masters, who won millions in settlements after being wrongly accused of murder. His client this time around is David Kraus, who was managing a local Grease Monkey back in June 2007, at the time the incident took place.

"The allegations are that she parked in the Grease Monkey parking lot, blocking the entrance. She was allegedly monitoring a stop down the road by another unit," Lane explains. "My client, who's a Vietnam veteran, a deacon in his church, a guy who salutes authority and loves cops, walks out to politely ask her to please move the unit out of the entry way, and she blows him off -- tells him, 'No, I'm not going to do it.' He says, 'May I get your supervisor's phone number and see what he says about that -- and may I get your business card?' And she starts yelling at him.

"He walks away," Lane continues, "but she gets out of the car, says, 'Hold it right there!' In his shop, she spins him around, puts him against the wall and puts cuffs on him. He asks, 'Why are you arresting me?,' and she says, 'Interference.' Supposedly this was a potentially deadly stop down the street and he was distracting her from protecting her fellow officers -- but it was apparently so deadly that she ignored them and slapped cuffs on my client because she believed he wasn't showing proper respect of her authority. And now he's got permanent nerve damage in his hand because she put the cuffs on so tightly. The top of his hand and part of his thumb are numb to this day."

The suit states that all criminal charges against Kraus were dismissed.

Murray's response? He declines to comment on the merits of the case, which will get underway in federal court on Monday. But he says, "I think when people find out the whole story, it may change their opinion."

Murray points out that the Ferrari matter was investigated by DPD internal affairs personnel, who determined that the charges were "not sustained" -- a ruling with some ambiguity. "The best outcome is 'unfounded,' which means it didn't happen, and 'sustained' means guilty," he notes. "And 'not sustained' means it can't be proven either way. A typical phrase a layman might use is 'he said, she said.' Both sides claim something different, and we can't get enough evidence to rule on the case either way."

In addition, the Office of the Independent Monitor, an agency set up to track the actions of employees overseen by Denver's safety department, weighed in as well. Murray prefers not to comment on the OIM letter other than to say the report "speaks for itself."

Is it possible Ferrari is being targeted because of her prominence? Murray believes "that's irrelevant. Officers get complaints. The nature of law enforcement is contentious, and unfortunately, there are people who don't like what we do or like when we take action. I'd point you to traffic stops. A driver may know he's run a light, but he might still be angry at us for doing our job. It's the nature of what we do, and that's difficult -- but we understand it. So it's not unusual for people to have these kinds of allegations thrown at them.

"I have great faith in Officer Ferrari. She does a great job," he goes on, adding, "The Denver Police Department had nearly half a million contacts with citizens last year alone. I'd ask people to keep that in perspective when they hear about a four-year-old incident like this one, where the details haven't all come out. It's easy to make allegations, but we'd like the same benefit of the doubt the public gets when they go to trial."

Page down to see photos of Ferrari in action on American Gladiators, as well as to read the lawsuit and letters to David Kraus from both the Office of the Independent Monitor and the Denver Police Department's internal affairs bureau.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts