Crackdown results in spike of Denver Police officer firings

7:59 AM, Jun 6, 2011   |    comments
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Two officers were fired this week. Eight have been let go in the past three months.

It is bad publicity for Denver Police that began with two police beatings caught on tape in the same year.

On April 4, 2009, two officers videotaped chasing and tackling a man in Lower Downtown. They then hit him at least nine times with a metal asp.

In July 2009, two officers were caught on tape pushing and wrestling girls to the ground before spraying them with pepper spray.

When new Manager of Safety Charles Garcia took office, he fired Devin Sparks and Randy Murr, two years after the April 2009 beating in LoDo which was first exposed by a 9Wants to Know investigation.

Officer David Torrez and Officer Jose Palomares were let go in March by Denver's former interim-Manager of Safety Mary Malatesta. They were accused of putting false information in police reports.

Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine were the cops caught on tape outside the Denver Diner in July 2009, although it was not the beating but findings of "inaccurate reports" that eventually got them fired.

This week, the two Denver detectives were terminated were Kenneth Briggle, who was fired after being held in contempt of court during his divorce; and Jay Estrada, who was fired for lying about a hit-and-run investigation.

The videotaped incidents triggered public outrage, but the Denver Police officers involved kept their jobs - until this year.

Of the eight DPD officers fired since March, six of them were let go by Garcia. He turned down an interview request from 9Wants to Know.

Denver Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal is defending Garcia.

"The decisions made by the manager were reasonable and appropriate," Rosenthal said. "Any large, urban agency, you're going to have officers who commit misconduct. It's just the nature of the beast."

According to the Denver Police Department, there are currently 1,440 officers employed.

9Wants to Know reviewed a 78-page report, put out by Rosenthal's office, which reveals the number of officer terminations in Denver is up dramatically in 2011.

More officers have been fired so far this year than the previous four years combined.

So far this year, there have been eight officers terminated. In 2010, just three officers were fired. Just one officer was fired each year in 2009, 2008 and 2007.

The number of officers who have resigned is down this year. Just one officer resignation has been reported in 2011, versus three resignations in 2010, seven in both 2009 and 2008, and six in 2007.

"We are seeing officers for the first time in the department's history being fired for lying," Rosenthal said. "As officers realize the consequences of this kind of act, they'll stop doing it."

Rosenthal says cases are moving faster this year because Garcia got rid of the disciplinary review board, a six-person panel of police and civilians that reviewed each case.

The union representing Denver's officers, the Denver Police Protective Association, turned down our interview request.

The Denver Post reported Sgt. Ricki Stern, of the Street Crime Attack Team, wrote a scathing e-mail on May 7, calling Garcia's actions "an insult to everyone who puts on a uniform."

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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