It’s official. Denver will appeal the decision of Civil Service Commission hearing officer John Criswell reducing Denver police officer James Turney’s suspension over the Paul Childs shooting from 10 months to five days.
“We strongly believe that the hearing officer erroneously interpreted departmental and civil service rules in reaching his decision, and we also believe that his decision involves policy considerations that reverberate far beyond the Turney case,” said City Attorney Cole Finegan. Finegan also said he will seek a stay of the decision to stop any reimbursement of back wages and benefits to Turney until the city’s appeals have been ruled upon.
The controversial July 5, 2003, shooting began when police were called to a northeast Denver home on Thrill Place when family members reported that Paul Childs was threatening his mother with a knife. Officers said Childs refused to put the knife down when ordered. Several officers had their Taser guns drawn during the confrontation with Childs, but they never fired the weapons. Turney shot Childs four times, killing him.
Denver Manager of Safety Al LaCabe suspended Turney for 10months.
LaCabe found that Turney made a number of errors at the scene but did not violate the department’s use of force policy. In announcing the suspension, LaCabe said Turney should have shut the security screen door in front of the home and backed away, once he determined that there was no one else inside the home. LaCabe said the barrier between Childs and everyone else could have been increased without exposing the officers to harm by simply closing the security door. LaCabe said that the suspension also covered violations that stemmed from an alleged death threat Turney made to his former mother-in-law the day before the Childs shooting.
Criswell, in overturning the suspension ordered by LaCabe, found that Turney’s only violations were making the death threat to his former mother-in-law and overusing his cell phone while on the job, and that a five day suspension with restoration of back pay was appropriate.