Denver's Police Discipline Problem

August 20 2007, 1:18 PM

There's a rather unsettling article in the Denver Post about the number of Denver police officers who have been disciplined yet are still on the force. The first question that comes to mind is, why? Among the acts that resulted in discipline:

  • an officer found to have held a cocked gun to his wife's head,
  • another who pushed a pregnant teen into concrete stairs, then placed his knee on her belly, and
  • another with 21 disciplinary actions against him and 50 total complaints.

In all,

At least 25 officers remained on the force from January 1997 through September 2006 after they were punished for what the department calls "departure from the truth.

Other examples:

  • "According to court records, Officer Stanley Valverde amassed 26 separate disciplinary actions before the city finally fired him. Valverde pulled his gun and pointed it at a motorist during a road-rage incident Jan. 26, 2000, records show. In May 2000, while directing traffic, Valverde pulled his gun again on another motorist attempting to negotiate a confusing cone barricade. When that motorist asked why, Valverde said, "I do it because I can," according to testimony."
  • "Denver police Officer Karl Coleman is the discipline record holder at the department since 1997. He has been investigated on 50 internal offenses and disciplined at least 21 times for departmental violations, including his guilty plea following a May 2002 drunken-driving collision, a search of the department's discipline database shows. Court records show that during his one-year probation, he once appeared for his court-ordered alcohol counseling with alcohol on his breath."
  • "Officer Damian Naranjo was suspended after he encouraged a woman outside the Baja Beach Club on March 15, 2001, to perform an exotic dance on a sidewalk, exposing her breasts and buttocks to him and other officers. Naranjo also was found to have used excessive force later that night while arresting a man. Three years later, Naranjo resigned from the police force after a woman accused him of committing sexual assault during a police retirement party at a LoDo bar. No criminal charge was ever filed, and Naranjo's attorney said the resignation was not related to the assault allegation."

City officials say these incidents and statistics show our police system is broken.

[Denver Safety Manager Al] LaCabe, who has formed a committee that is undertaking a two-year review of the discipline system, said this is the year he hopes to initiate reforms.

We trust our police to uphold the law, not break it. Reforms are way overdue.

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