Michael Hancock wants cop reinstatement in Michael DeHerrera case appealed, others react

Categories: News

michael hancock in pensive pose small.JPG
Michael Hancock.
Yesterday, we noted in our post about the reinstatement of cops fired for beating Michael DeHerrera that we'd reached out to spokespeople for Mayor Michael Hancock to get his take.

That response came yesterday evening, with Hancock calling for an appeal of the ruling -- and he wasn't the only one reacting to the case.

As we've reported, an April 2009 video shows DeHerrera talking on a cell phone when Denver Police Officer Devin Sparks and Corporal Randy Murr clobber him. More than a year later, then-Manager of Safety Ron Perea determined that Sparks and Murr should be suspended for three days but not fired -- a decision so controversial that he soon resigned. In March 2011, Charley Garcia, successor to the Manager of Safety who immediately followed Perea, came to a very different conclusion, sacking the two cops. But Sparks and Murr appealed the decision, and the Denver Civil Service Commission sided with them this week. The rationale: Because the men had already accepted Perea's edict, Garcia's punishment for the same offense was the equivalent of double jeopardy.

Immediately after the panel's ruling, interim Manager of Safety Ashley Kilroy released a statement supporting the decision to give Sparks and Murr the heave-ho. But the mayor's office was silent until yesterday evening, when it released this statement:

"In light of the Civil Service Commission's ruling to overturn the Manager of Safety's decision to terminate Officers Sparks and Murr, I have instructed the City Attorney to issue a notice of appeal to the commission; and further instructed him to issue a motion to attempt to "Stay" the reinstatement of the officers. We are going to vigorously challenge this decision. We have to send a clear message that we will not tolerate the use of excessive force if we are to build the kind of law enforcement department we all want and deserve."

We also sought out reactions from other observers. Richard Rosenthal, the city's Independent Monitor, as well as a Westword profile subject who's recommended harsher punishment for some cops involved in dubious incidents, declined to comment pending a formal appeal. However, Erik Maulbetsch, the coordinator for the Race to Justice arm of the local American Civil Liberties Union branch, offered this:

"The people of Denver should not have to pay the price for a bureaucrat who failed to do his job. Ron Perea's failure to fire Officers Murr and Sparks for their brutal beating of Michael DeHerrera and their despicable cover-up of the assault rightly cost Perea his job. Both officers received nothing more than slaps on the wrist and were permitted to continue terrorizing the residents of Denver. This wasn't an isolated incident -- just three months earlier, Officer Murr was one of a trio of officers who beat Community College of Denver student Alex Landau so badly that the city ended up settling for nearly $800,000. With the reinstatement of these officers, Denver took a step backward."

And then there's a tough take from David, a spokesman for West Denver Copwatch, an organization that's been a virulent critic of alleged police brutality in Denver:

Denver's decision to reinstate officers Murr and Sparks is outrageous, despicable and inexcusable. It is further proof that Denver officers can operate with impunity without fear of any reprisal, despite their atrocious track record of violence, intimidation and murder. Our communities are not safe and this decision indicates that not only is DPD the villain, but so are the mayors office, the City and district attorney's office, the Manager of safety and every other entity that fails to protect the community while simultaneously protecting known civil rights abusers.

More from our News archive: "Police beating? Reasonable force? Weird camera moves?: Inside the Michael DeHerrera video."

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Robert Chase
Robert Chase

I spoke with the Executive Director of the Civil Service Commission yesterday.  The incompetent reporting of the Denver Post misled many to blame the Commission, when the onus falls squarely on Ron Perea, Al LaCabe, and the previous mayoral administration.  Instead of acknowledging Hickenlooper's failures, Hancock plays upon the Post's misdirection of public ire and foments more, when he should be throwing Perea under the bus!

Today's editorial in the Post is just more of the same militant ignorance I have come to expect of it: "We think the three-member panel was too restrictive in its reading of the charter in ruling Perea was prohibited from reconsidering the disciplinary decision" -- there is not a word of explanation of why the editors so "think". I am reminded of the editors recent position pro per se standards: "We hope members of a state drug task force will recommend a limit for how much THC drivers can have in their systems. ... our state's laws need to keep up with this potentially deadly problem" -- the Post's editors come across as determinedly ignorant. Who or what informs their opinion? The Post often does not even bother to send reporters to cover what is going on at meetings and hearings about cannabis-policy (even those at the Capitol, a long stone's throw away from their headquarters). I am glad that they agree with me and most people in Denver that Sparks and Murr should not work for DPD, but any attempt to reform DPD depends upon the consistent application of policy. Perea allowed his disciplinary order to become final according to that policy, and he had the authority and the responsibility to impose discipline. The Mayor and the Post are trying to divert attention from the corrupt operation of City government and blame the Civil Service Commission because Perea imposed suspension instead of termination -- the Mayor and the Post are scum!

We need an independent system of investigation of police misconduct -- all we need to do is transfer a minority of positions within DPD's Internal Affairs Bureau to an independent agency charged with investigating police misconduct against civilians. The Denver Police Accoutability Coalition (of which I was a member) recommended this in December of 2009, and revelations of police assaults and huge monetary settlements against the City have become ever more frequent since -- we need an citizens' initiative to set up a system of investigating citizens' complaints against police like the one which has worked for thirty years in San Francisco.

Light Rail Tattler
Light Rail Tattler

After the guy said "beam me up Scotty" the cops had to beat the crap out of the guy to keep him from escaping.

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