Close Enough For Police Work? Denver Police Arrest Mother on Way to Pick Up Daughter At School — Despite the Fact that She Looks Nothing Like Suspect

Christina FourHorn is suing the Denver police department in a bizarre mistaken identity case that led to her jailing — and an alleged refusal of police to listen to repeated efforts to show that they had the wrong person. It is only the latest in such mistaken identity arrest cases.

FourHorn was surprised by three police cars that came screeching into her front yard as she was setting out to pick up her daughter at school. They arrested her for robbery and threw her into jail for five days. It took five days for her husband to get loans from friends to bail her out.

She and her family repeatedly tried to get the officers at the scene and at the station to give them some idea of what she was being accused of but were rebuffed. It turns out that they were looking for a Christin FourHorn, who happens to live in Oklahoma. A Christina FourHorn in Colorado was deemed close enough. It did not matter that Christina is about 100 pounds heavier than the suspect, has a different middle name, does not have a telltale tattoo, is seven years older, and looks nothing like the suspect.

The ACLU is taking the case and charges that such mistaken are all too common in Colorado — the organization has identified 237 such cases.

Not only that, her family will not get back the $3,500 that they paid the bondsman to get her out of jail.

For the full story, click here.

53 thoughts on “Close Enough For Police Work? Denver Police Arrest Mother on Way to Pick Up Daughter At School — Despite the Fact that She Looks Nothing Like Suspect

  1. “do you disagree with me that the average LEO doesn’t know who the ‘bad/dirty’ LEOs are on thier force?” – AJ

    I don’t know the answer to that question, and my point is that neither do you. Bad/dirty officers exist. It stands to reason that some other officers may know about them and be complicit in their silence. What I can’t know – and neither can you – is whether that includes *all* officers or even the “average” officer. It may be all of them, it may be a small percentage. I’m not willing to make assumptions based on incomplete data.

    You could as easily say that the “average” fast food worker knows that one of their co-workers spits in the special sauce, or that the “average” bank teller secret knows that a fellow bank teller sells people’s routing numbers to the highest bidder. I can’t prove you wrong, but you can’t prove you’re right. It’s not a worthwhile argument.

    “I could literally link hundreds of stories backing up this claim – and those are only the ones that came to light usually because of video or audio evidence, how many thousands never make it to the surface.” – AJ

    There are hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers employed in the U.S. I would be shocked if you couldn’t find hundreds of stories on the subject. That still doesn’t prove that a majority of them are complicit. Would you include the stories where the malfeasance came to light because of internal investigations, where fellow officers turned them in or where the department itself was trying to weed out their bad seeds? Those stories exist, too – hundreds of them, as you say. I doubt either of us have enough information to say which version of the story is more common.

    For that matter, the story referred to in this blog post doesn’t appear to be malfeasance. It looks more like incompetence, either on the part of the officers or on the part of the police departments policies and procedures (or a combination of both). That doesn’t excuse what happened – either way, it needs to be fixed – but you can’t assume that every mistake made by law enforcement is a sign of corruption.

    “The culture of cops is to look out for thier own even if it means looking the other way or lying – do you disagree?” – AJ

    I’ve never been a cop, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge. I used to be a police dispatchers, so I’ve worked with a lot of cops in the past, and I think most of them are pretty decent. A smaller subset of cops, based on my anecdotal evidence are over-aggressive pricks. I never had first-hand knowledge of any of them being outright dirty. Again, it’s anecdotal, but no, I don’t think there is a universal corporate culture that encourages cops to engage in illegal behavior.

    My guess is that the “culture” will depend on the area and the agency the LEO works for. A law enforcement agency with a stringent internal investigations process a zero-tolerance approach to intentional dishonesty or illegal behavior will likely have a much cleaner patrol staff than an agency that whitewashes every incident and promotes based on popularity rather than ability and integrity.

    You’re basing your assumption that all cops are dirty or are complicit in other cops’ illegal behavior based on what seems like overwhelming evidence from the media, but when you consider the huge number of LEOs in the U.S., the evidence becomes anecdotal. It’s not statistically significant. Based on the same thinking, you might assume that every child who is left alone for five minutes will be abducted by a pedophile because every time it happens, you hear about it. The media, by its nature, provides a view of the world that is skewed toward the sensational.

    “To whatever extent legally and reasonably possible, it is better to have no contact or conversation with someone carrying a collection of weapons on thier hip with extrordanary powers to potentially take away your rights.” – AJ

    I guess my question for you would be, what’s your alternative? Do you believe that if we did away with law enforcement, the vast majority of the population would follow the law on the honor system? Or perhaps you think we should just do away with all laws and ask people to be nice to each other? Those are nice sentiments, but I don’t think most people would find them very realistic.

    If, on the other hand, laws and law enforcement are necessary to protect citizens from impinging on each others’ rights, then we need to do what we can to ensure that laws are fair and law enforcement is held to the highest standard possible. I believe this can be done, and should be done, without resorting to hyperbole and without a disregard for the facts.

  2. “I guess my question for you would be, what’s your alternative? Do you believe that if we did away with law enforcement, the vast majority of the population would follow the law on the honor system? Or perhaps you think we should just do away with all laws and ask people to be nice to each other? Those are nice sentiments, but I don’t think most people would find them very realistic.” -Coloradan

    Well I’m not going to defend AJ’s position but I do question why you have to respond like this as if this were the only alternatives available. How about we reign in the freedom we gave cops post 911 to invade our privacy and detain first, ask questions later? How about we reign in the Tasers? How about we introduce some legislation giving citizens the right to protect themselves and other citizens from cops who are assaulting them? How about we introduce some legislation to give citizens the right to redress grievances, particularly since that’s a founding principle of our country?

    How about some of that? Why pretend that the only option is to throw out the baby with the bathwater?

  3. “Why pretend that the only option is to throw out the baby with the bathwater?” – Gerty

    I’m not. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in how law enforcement is administered in the U.S.

    “How about we reign in the freedom we gave cops post 911 to invade our privacy and detain first, ask questions later?” – Gerty

    Local law enforcement really doesn’t have significantly more power than it did before 2001. In fact, the Supreme Court decided in Brendlin v. California 2007 that police making traffic stops have for all purposes “seized” the occupants of the vehicle and aren’t allowed to hold them any longer than necessary without further probable cause. What this essentially means is that local law enforcement can’t detain someone without probable cause.

    On the other hand, federal law enforcement has a lot more power than it did pre-9/11. Warrantless wiretaps, detaining terror suspects without charging them, and having free access to phone records are all unconstitutional, in my opinion, and I would love to see them rolled back.

    “How about we reign in the Tasers?” – Gerty

    I agree. Given a choice between shooting a suspect and Tasing them, I think most people would prefer an officer tase them, but it does seem that they have been misused in a lot of cases. I’d like to see some federal guidelines on the when the use of Tasers is appropriate and how they should be used.

    “How about we introduce some legislation giving citizens the right to protect themselves and other citizens from cops who are assaulting them?” – Gerty

    I would be interested in reading that legislation. I don’t think legislation encouraging people to get into physical altercations with law enforcement would be a good idea for anyone involved, but maybe that’s not what you’re talking about.

    “How about we introduce some legislation to give citizens the right to redress grievances, particularly since that’s a founding principle of our country?” – Gerty

    Sure, but don’t forget the options you already have for redressing grievances. For one, citizens can sue, and they do, frequently. Sometimes they win. Second, they can report police abuse to the officer’s agency, usually through their internal investigations department. Third, they can report police abuse to higher law enforcement agencies (like reporting a local cop involved in illegal behavior to the FBI). Fourth, they can report police abuse to their elected officials. City councils ultimately employ the police. The sheriff employs deputies. The governor is ultimately responsible for state law enforcement. The president ultimately responsible for federal law enforcement. If you don’t like how they’re running things, call them, write them, sign petitions… and if they don’t change, vote them out. It’s democracy in action.

    Some communities have gone further and implemented citizen oversight boards to review complaints against the police. It sounds like a good idea if it’s done well. My point is, you have a lot of options for redressing grievances already, but if it’s not enough, by all means, suggest legislation to your city council, state legislators, or federal legislators to create more. Just don’t forget the options you already have.

    While we’re at it, how about another suggestion? A lot of law enforcement agencies have installed cameras in their patrol cruisers to record every traffic stop they make. How about cutting out a slice of that stimulus money to pay for every agency to have those? It’s a lot easier to ensure the police are behaving properly if you can review the video. From there, let’s extend it to other police contacts. Maybe video’s not practical, but how about wiring officers for sound recording? Officers who are following protocol have nothing to fear. As a 9-1-1 operator, everything I did was recorded. You get used to it.

  4. ““Why pretend that the only option is to throw out the baby with the bathwater?” – Gerty

    I’m not. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in how law enforcement is administered in the U.S.” -Coloradan

    I’m sorry that is not an answer.

    That cookie cutter talking point in no way whatsoever addresses your comment where you attempted to pigeonhole AJ into a ridiculous position that omitted all the other possibilities for reform.

    You simply invented a preposterous scenario, then lectured him on how it wouldn’t work.

    As if he had proposed it.

    Which he did not.

    And as if it were the only alternative.

    Which it is not.

    Here. Since your memory is short I’ll reprint your comment for you so as to help you remember.

    “I guess my question for you would be, what’s your alternative? Do you believe that if we did away with law enforcement, the vast majority of the population would follow the law on the honor system? Or perhaps you think we should just do away with all laws and ask people to be nice to each other? Those are nice sentiments, but I don’t think most people would find them very realistic.” -Coloradan

  5. “Local law enforcement really doesn’t have significantly more power than it did before 2001.” Damage Controller

    Utterly false.

    Clearly you don’t know what you’re talking about if that’s what you think. Local law enforcement now has capabilities that include sophisticated eavesdropping capabilities, no knock access in the event anything “terrorism” related is “suspected” and the ability to read your mail, email, bank statements, etc. All in the name of national security.

    Don’t believe me.

    Ask Professor Turley.

    He’s spoken and written extensively on this both in here and on television.

  6. You quoted two sentences out of my long response and said, “That’s not an answer.” Here, I can do it, too:

    “Which he did not.

    And as if it were the only alternative.” – Gerty

    What does that mean, Gerty? That doesn’t even make sense!

    1. AJ had made it clear that law enforcement in general was at best a necessary evil and at worse just an evil. I think given that, it is a valid question to ask what the alternative is.

    2. Are you AJ’s legal counsel, big brother, alter ego, or can you just not stand to be part of the discussion?

  7. “I think most people would prefer an officer tase them” – Coloradan

    Oh yea.

    I was just thinking to myself the other day how I would like a nice tasing.
    😐

    I think most people would prefer they learn how to treat citizens with respect again, even the irate ones and learn how to deflate situations without acting like a bunch of pussy’s.

  8. “AJ had made it clear that law enforcement in general was at best a necessary evil and at worse just an evil. I think given that, it is a valid question to ask what the alternative is” – Coloradan

    Of course its a valid question to ask.

    What’s not valid is then proceeding to pigeonhole that alternative into a completely ridiculous scenario, and then lecture him on it as if he had proposed it.

    That’s called a strawman argument.

  9. “Are you AJ’s legal counsel, big brother, alter ego, or can you just not stand to be part of the discussion?” -Coloradan

    Nice 4th grader insult.

    Of course if you could retain more than two consistent thoughts at a time you’d know what I was discussing as I made it clear repeatedly that I wasn’t defending his position or him.

    I’m simply correcting your fallacies.

  10. You know, if you’re going to continue to take my quotes out of context, I’ll take my ball and go home. The full quote was, “Given a choice between shooting a suspect and Tasing them, I think most people would prefer an officer tase them.” If you’re saying you’d rather be shot, have at it. Obviously, the best option is to de-escalate the situation to where no level of violence is needed, but that option isn’t always available. If you read the rest of my comments, I called for federal guidelines to reduce the misuse of Tasers. I’m just saying having a level of force between asking nicely and shooting them between the eyes seems like a good idea.

    “Local law enforcement now has capabilities that include sophisticated eavesdropping capabilities, no knock access in the event anything “terrorism” related is “suspected” and the ability to read your mail, email, bank statements, etc. All in the name of national security.” – Gerty

    Yeah, I don’t think so. If you wanted to provide some evidence to back that assertion up, that would be great. Local police don’t go into full-fledged investigations of suspected terrorists without taking their cue from the feds. All of the things you just mentioned are powers that the feds have taken on since 9/11, much of it due to the Patriot Act, and I agree with you that those are powers that should be scaled back, but let’s not confuse the matter by making people think Barney Fife has the right to hack their email.

  11. “You know, if you’re going to continue to take my quotes out of context, I’ll take my ball and go home. The full quote was, “Given a choice between shooting a suspect and Tasing them, I think most people would prefer an officer tase them.” If you’re saying you’d rather be shot, have at it.” -Coloradan

    I wasn’t taking it out of context. I knew what the next line was. I was pointing out the ignorance of that statement.

    See, tasers are for NON LETHAL situations.

    They don’t replace a gun.

    They replace a baton. They’re supposed to replace beating.

    So you were again offering a strawman argument, pretending that the only choice was between being shot, or being tased, when in fact that’s not usually a choice at all.

    Because the taser is for NON LETHAL situations.

    If you pull a gun on a cop you’re still going to get shot.

  12. ““Local law enforcement now has capabilities that include sophisticated eavesdropping capabilities, no knock access in the event anything “terrorism” related is “suspected” and the ability to read your mail, email, bank statements, etc. All in the name of national security.” – Gerty

    Yeah, I don’t think so. If you wanted to provide some evidence to back that assertion up, that would be great.”

    You’re kidding me right?

    There’s been several articles in this blog alone regarding the misuse of the patriot act by local law enforcement. Did you miss the hubbub about thermal imaging from cruisers?

    If you’re truly not aware of any of this then please go study on the topic and when you actually know something about it then come talk to me.

    When you know something.

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