Last July, almost exactly one year to the day after the Childs shooting, a Denver cop responding to a 911 call climbed into an apartment window and fatally shot 63-year-old Frank Lobato as the innocent senior citizen rose from his bed and reached for a soda can. It's yet another strike against a department that's already way behind in the count in the eyes of many of its citizens. Whitman has not yet rendered a public decision on that case. Because there are similarities between the Lobato and Childs cases, the Turney appellate verdict will almost certainly influence Whitman's thinking in the Lobato matter. Turney has asked that his suspension be reduced from 10 months to one day. Manager of Safety LaCabe has said the outcome will be a "watershed moment" for the DPD.
It's only a matter of time before another police shooting happens. Almost certainly sometime soon, while most of the DPD is out there trying to protect us from ourselves, some knucklehead cop will make headlines doing something stupid or illegal. And Gerry Whitman, the guy who wanted to be a weatherman but instead became a chief in a shit-storm will find himself at another fork in the road. He will make his decision, and as he puts it, he will make sure the public "gets the accurate information, so people know that I wasn't neglecting something, that I was just doing the best I could with what I had at the time."
On January 13, the hearing officer who presided over Turney's appeal made his decision public. John A. Criswell reduced Turney's suspension from 10 months to five days and fined the officer for an amount equal to a single day's pay. Criswell disciplined solely for an offense unrelated to the Childs shooting; he ruled that no discipline at all be imposed for the "Child's incident," stating, "the ideal tactic ... might have been to close the security door ... I am convinced that no reasonable police officer with Officer Turney's training and background would have thought of this tactic." Criswell might have thought differently if he'd reviewed Whitman's tactics on that night back in the '80s, when the young officer swatted away a knife, saved a life, and made the arrest. Immediately following the release of Criswell's findings, Chief Whitman had no comment. m
Maximillian Potter is 5280's Executive Editor.