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May 19, 2011 09:12 PM UTC

Denver Law Enforcement Scandal Timeline

  • 24 Comments
  • by: redstateblues

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

While insiders and observers of the mayoral campaigns are content to discuss abortion, evolution, and the merits of negative campaigning, arguably the most important issue facing Denver’s next mayor is being largely ignored by the media and the campaigns themselves. Bucking that trend, Westword has put together a timeline that shows how, in the span of less than a year, the need for change inside Denver’s law enforcement institutions*–and in the ways that the City and County respond to incidents of brutality–has become blatantly apparent.

Some of the highlowlights and a poll below the fold. Be sure to visit the actual Westword post to see the full compilation of videos and links.

July 9, 2010: Homeless street preacher Marvin Booker dies in jail in the new Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center.

August 14, 2010: News breaks that Perea has chosen not to fire officers Devin Sparks and Randy Murr for the beating of Michael DeHerrera, 23, outside a LoDo nightclub on the same night Watkins says he was assaulted by the police, overriding Rosenthal’s recommendation. Instead, Perea docked each of the officers three days’ pay, even though a video of the altercation, captured by the DPD’s High Activity Location Observation (HALO) surveillance system, shows the officers tackling DeHerrera, beating him with a sap and slamming his ankle in a car door after he’d apparently done nothing other than make a call on his cell phone.

August 17, 2010: Another HALO video surfaces of 32-year-old Mark Ashford being hit by police officers in a March 17, 2010 incident

August 17, 2010: Mayor John Hickenlooper, then running for governor, announces that he wants the FBI to look into the incident.

September 15, 2010: In response to City Council inquiries, the City Attorney’s office announces that Denver has spent nearly $6.2 million since 2004 to settle lawsuits involving police officers, a number the office says has remained fairly static.

September 19, 2010: Denver police announce that in the previous month, officer-initiated investigations declined by nearly 25 percent from the year before, a drop that some officers attributed to fears about losing their jobs if other media controversies break out.

January 12, 2011: New Denver mayor Bill Vidal indicates at his swearing-in ceremony that police brutality concerns will be one of the top priorities of his administration. Soon after, he promises to resolve all ongoing cases of alleged police misconduct before he leaves office in July.

January 12, 2011: Community College of Denver student Alexander Landau files a lawsuit alleging that he was pulled over for an illegal left turn on January 15, 2009 and beaten him bloody with flashlights and a police radio. One of the officers was Randy Murr, who was also involved in the DeHerrera incident. Landau was eventually taken to Denver Health to be treated for a broken nose, lacerations and closed head injuries — but not before he demanded somebody take photos of him.

March 25, 2011: New Manager of Safety Charles Garcia fires officers Sparks and Murr for their involvement in the DeHerrera incident, because they were found to have lied during the internal investigation.

April 11, 2011: Garcia fires two more officers, Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine, over a July 2009 incident at the Denver Diner in which cops allegedly beat women to the ground and maced one of them. Nixon was one of the three officers named in the Alex Landau beating.

May 9, 2011: All officers involved in the jailhouse death of Marvin Booker are cleared of any wrongdoing. At the press conference announcing the decision, city officials release videos of the incident and a forty-page report from the investigation, which Rosenthal calls “one of the most comprehensive and thorough that I have seen since I began monitoring activities six and a half years ago.”

May 10, 2011: Booker’s family members call on federal investigators to look into the jailhouse-death investigation.

*an earlier version of this diary wrongly insinuated that the timeline was related solely to DPD. It has been corrected.

What is the most important issue facing Denver's next mayor?

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24 thoughts on “Denver Law Enforcement Scandal Timeline

  1. task forces from Hickenlooper’s first term on the process for discipling police in these types of situations?

    I’m aware that Hancock was on them and that many of the ideas were embraced by Hick and became policy. Now that Hancock regularly says he’s going to fix it, I’m wondering if he missed a chance to do it correctly, or perhaps he was overruled.

    Honestly asking. I lived and worked in Lone Tree at the time. Didn’t pay much attention.

    Obviously this continues to be a huge problem. For the city’s collective black eye and the victims with their literal black eyes (if they’re lucky). Not to mention our pocketbooks.

    1. I remember at the ACLU police accountability forum a question was asked of all the candidates who were currently serving on City Council: “What would you do as mayor that you didn’t do on City Council?” It was in reference to racial profiling, but it certainly holds true for police brutality as well.

      But I think you’re overstating the Council’s power. Hick may well have fallen in love with some of their recommendation’s, but ultimately the buck stopped at his desk. IMO Vidal has done a tremendous job on this issue, doing more in 4 months than Hick did in 8 years.

      1. I believe the two were not connected in an official way. I would love to see a list of proposals. This was after the Child shooting, so someone had to have been watching and remembers. We were like 20. Where’s OQD when you need him?

        Definitely on the Hick v Vidal point. I dunno if it’s just because I hear less of Vidal, or what, but I’m not missing Hick super tons yet. Not that he’s gone gone, but, you know. I will miss him being willing to advocate for a tax hike. (Thread jack and a half. Someone should tackle city education. Not it!)

          1. Fine. Do it for me. 🙂 I’ll start reading.

            The Post said he was on it. That’s why I’ve been thinking about the larger problem. You’re incredibly timely, rsb.

          2. Maybe Hancock’s campaign will? Maybe if I weren’t so lazy I’d hop down to the library and see if it made the paper along the way.

            We’ll see. Either way, if I find something out I’ll pass it along.

    1. There are a lot of things that factor into whether or not jobs will be created in a city or state or country. The executive, the mayor in this case, certainly plays a role in that.

      The reason I think this is the biggest issue facing the next mayor is because this is one area where the mayor can have direct influence over the speed and quality of reform.

  2. But you should add MMJ to the poll. I haven’t voted yet, myself–I’m still thinking. DPD is a major issue. I have to say, I recently had an encounter with a Denver officer–don’t ask–and he was far and away the most friendly, understanding and competent law enforcement officer I’ve met, and I’ve met a few thanks to previously working with an organization that often cooperated with police and sheriffs. And that incident with the macaroni and the mongoose, but we don’t talk about that.

    Anyway, I just hope that the thread of rewarding GOOD performance doesn’t get lost in the many brutality scandals. The book “On Combat” is a great read for anyone who wants to understand what drives some police officers to begin behaving violently, and why others can withstand the same stressors without ever abusing citizens. RSB, if you haven’t read it yet I’d be happy to loan you my copy. (that’s not to say I in any way disagree with you or think your knowledge is incomplete here– just a reading recommendation.)

    1. It’s absolutely an important issue.

      And don’t mistake my post to be anti-cop. I think it’s in everybody’s interest–including DPD–to find a better way to address the issue. Reforms are going to help, not hurt, the department’s ability to do their jobs.

      But when there are such obvious incidents as these, it’s deplorable for justice to be anything other than swift and appropriate to the severity of the violation. The change needs to come from the top down in terms of policy, and from the bottom up in terms of the culture inside the department.

      1. I’m not certain I agree on it being the most important issue, but I agree with your reasoning for labeling it so, if that makes any sense–and completely agree that it’s gone pretty “silly season” in that 90% of the race now seems to be about issues that don’t directly relate to the job of Mayor.

        I’m between DPD and the city budget right now as the most urgent issue, but I’d phrase “budget” more as “revenues,” because messaging really needs to stop focusing on the theory of cutting our way to growth.  

        1. Torn between budget and jobs, but decided they are kind of the same. But both depend on DPD not sucking.

          Now, which candidate will give us liberals what we always want, higher taxes? We should host that debate. I’ll bring the bullhorn. <– This is my final answer for most important (tax hike, not bullhorn).

        2. Issues that actually matter are hard to explain, and sum up in a 30-second ad. I don’t think anyone seriously believes that these things are more important than the real issues, but it’s natural for them to be more heavily discussed.

  3. At least in the first notation:

    Booker died at the jail.  Denver Sheriff’s Deputies – not DPD.  Totally different command, training, mission, uniforms.

      1. …he was asked how he’d fix the DPD.  He responded by saying something like ‘leadership, transparency, and training.  They need more training!  I saw the Booker video and they were doing that choke hold all wrong!’

    1. he’s really done a great job with this issue. People keep talking about Theresa Spahn for Manager of Safety, but why not Bill Vidal?

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