Did the city cave in to pressure in suspending Denver Police officer James Turney for 10 months without pay over the killing of developmentally disabled 15-year-old Paul Childs? That’s the inference one could draw from an appeals ruling Thursday in which Hearing Officer John Criswell overturned the suspension and and granted Turney his back pay. Here’s a brief recap:
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. Turney was assigned to an administrative position after Manager of Safety Alvin LaCabe suspended him.
Turney’s suspension technically did not involve the use of force in the Childs’ shooting. The suspension was imposed procedural mistakes made that day, as well as for making a death threat to his mother-in-law the day before the shooting and over-using his cell phone on the job. Criswell reduced the suspension time to five days. The reversal is going to anger a lot of folks in the community who believe Turney got off too easy. But it’s an issue that may never be resolved in the court of public opinion because the civil lawsuit has been settled so we will never hear the evidence in a courtroom, tested by cross-examination. One finding apparently unchallenged by yesterday’s ruling is that Turney made a death threat to a member of his own family. For that reason alone, Denver police chief Gerry Whitman may be wise to say Turney will not return to the street .