Denver Police Department Fights Efforts to Fire Officer Who Is Shown Attacking Man Speaking on a Cell Phone

There is a controversy in Denver over the handling of a police camera and the appropriate punishment of an officer shown beating two men. The incident was caught on Denver’s High Activity Location Observation video surveillance (H.A.L.O) system.

Denver’s Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal has clashed with the Denver Police over whether the officer should be fired. The Denver Police insist that an officer simply had a clumsy “arm bar take down” and that, when the camera inexplicably pans away at the critical point in the confrontation, there was no effort to cover up the abuse of the suspect. Michael DeHerrera, 24, who is shown talking on his phone with his father (a sheriff’s deputy in Pueblo), is suddenly thrown to the ground by the officer. His friend, Shawn Johnson, 25, was already being arrested when the camera then shows Officer Devin Sparks suddenly grab DeHerrera and throw him to the ground — that is when the camera suddenly pans away. When the camera pans back, you can see officers hitting DeHerrera.

The city settled with DeHerrera and Johnson for a surprisingly small amount: $15,500,

After the incident, the officer piled on a long list of charges against Johnson and DeHerrera — all of which were later dropped.

Officer Randy Murr was suspended for three days without pay for violating a provision requiring truthful and accurate information in police reports, and Sparks fined 24 hours for the same violation. Once again, I am surprised by the light punishment given for failing to provide truthful information on a police report — entirely separate from the issue of the beating.

Reviewing the tape, I fail to see the arguable defense for the officer. The department says that the suspect shoved officers and they may have been afraid that he might shove them again. That hardly justifies this level of force, in my view.

To watch the video, click here.

Previously, Denver officers were acquitted by a jury in a case with an equally disturbing video, here.

Source: Denver Channel

50 thoughts on “Denver Police Department Fights Efforts to Fire Officer Who Is Shown Attacking Man Speaking on a Cell Phone”

  1. I’d be interested in reading the part of the police manual about “beating the suspect into semi-consciousness with your fists” during an arrest. I’m not kidding – I’m sure it’s in there. I’ll bet they have invented or re-used some words in amazing ways to disguise the reality of the actions.

    Yeah, one of the officers on the first “suspect” clearly points to the guy on the phone and says something that causes the assaulti, er, arresting officer to jump the second vicit,er “suspect.” The father, on the other end of the phone, has said that he heard on officer shout something about them being recorded, then the sounds of the assault.

    At the end, the officer aggressively slams the police car door shut, but it doesn’t close properly, so he slams it again. I wonder what part of the “suspect” was in the way the first time?

    It’s astoundingly telling that the camera operator realized that something really bad was going on and felt the need to protect the officer from evidence being created of what he was doing. How often does this happen and isn’t reported?

  2. What I am wondering is if local governments sometimes don’t place claims to CIRSA even though CIRSA might be on the hook.

    In the case of the Denver Police beating, and whether it might be related to drug use, I looked on the Denver web site and couldn’t find any reference to them actually performing drug tests on officers. They asked applicants to “self-evaluate”. It doesn’t sound like they are actually testing officers for any drugs on a random or wide spread basis, only very occasionally if at all.

    If you establish government liability thru informal government policy or deliberate indifference (See Monell v. Department of Social Services 436 U.S. 658, then why would you assume that you can’t also collect from private co-conspirators?

    CIRSA is supposedly 100% taxpayer funded — it supposedly sells insurance only to governments. But in federal court in my case they claimed no duty to the public. They sold two policies to the City of Steamboat Springs, one for employee crime and one for local governments errors and omissions insurance. Wouldn’t what happened to me be covered by one or the other?

    My problems originated from a boundary dispute. There are thousands of years of boundary disputes in historical records. In my case it could have been nipped in the bud in 1992 if the city attorney had stepped in when he knew the issues — a fence 60 feet away from owners’ property, fireworks in violation of international safety standards, etc. Use of a driveway as a public turning place. An inherently unstable situation. And a place where people backed into an intersection.

  3. Kay:

    Their salaries are a modest price for selling their souls, which is a condition precedent to remaining employed.

    They are also modest compared to the salaries or shares of lawyers in the politically connected firms, such as Whoregan and Hardons, or and Brownstain, Hyatt, Farber and Shrek, out of and into which the scumbags who are usually appointed as City Attorney rotate to make sure that their client’s interests are always protected by the City.

    Larry Manzanares was an exception. He was a long-time county court, then District Court, judge appointed to replace Cole Finegan after Finegan joined Whoregan and Hardons.

    As you may recall, when Manzanares was caught with a laptop computer he had stolen from the District Court before being nominated to be City Attorney, and which he used to (he mistakenly thought–not knowing, despite his Harvard Law degree, they had Lo-jacked the computer) surreptitiously cruise porn sites, he blew his brains out.

    Manzanares had exactly what it takes to be Denver’s City Attorney.

    It’s too bad he blew his brains out. Cole Finegan and Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey were doing everything they could to interfere with his prosecution, and he almost certainly would have gotten off with probation and, at most, a reprimand from the Supreme Court’s ethics Gestapo.

    Certainly, his great friend, Disciplinary Judge William R. Lucero, would have gone way out of his way to avoid imposing serious discipline on his homey. Lucero’s decisions are based almost exclusively on whether he likes or dislikes a respondent, or whether the respondent has powerful friends, or enemies, so I think Larry would have gotten a hearing that was MORE than fair, if it even went to hearing.

    Manzanares was replaced by scumbag David Fine, who, as you may recall, was identified in Maximillian Potter’s excellent article in (about Dem fixer Willie Shepherd’s fall from grace for vastly overbilling and defrauding clients) as a key player in getting Shepherd’s client to back off on his ethics charges against Shepherd, in exchange for as-yet unidentified consideration. The client has a lot of dealings with the City of Denver.

    That David Fine also has exactly what it takes to be Denver’s City Attorney.

    Denver sure is lucky it has such “leading members of the bar” looking out for the interests of its biggest fat cats.

  4. Well said, Jake!

    Public officials abuse their judicial and governmental immunity to commit all sorts of acts that would, were they subject to the same laws and principles of liability to which the citizens they allegedly serve are subject, would land them in the poorhouse, jail, or both.

    Knowing that they are immune for personal civil or criminal liability for any unlawful act short torture or murder (and even they are often disguised as self-defense or committed by proxies), they feel free to abuse their power in ways we were taught as children were impossible in a democracy. They look out not for the public interest, but for their own interests, and those of key contributors and players in the political and business communities.

    Those who blow the whistle are more often than not treated more harshly than those guilty of misconduct, and themselves have few meaningful remedies. Hence, the same “omerta” that the Sicilian Mafia once observed (but Sammy “The Bull” Gravano proved once and for all long ago died) is consistently enforced in many public agencies.

    That is why most big city governments are little more than massive, continuing RICO violations that will never be prosecuted because, well, after all, they are run by the people who get to appoint US Attorneys and Judges.

  5. The trouble with litigation against a City or County or even the State is that once you win, you are awarded tax money.

    In other words, it doesn’t actually hurt the governmental group which you are suing. They don’t care if they lose other than the bad PR. They don’t lose any money.

    How to correct that problem?

    Support a ballot proposal which REQUIRES that the criminal conviction or civil conviction be paid by the governmental person responsible for the crime or illegal act.

    The government would scream and moan that it would “chill” their function as a “leader” of society.

    The truth, however, is that corrupt cops and corrupt bureaucrats would think twice about engaging in criminal behavior once they knew that THEY would have to pay out of their own pocket for the illegal acts.

    As it is, government laughs at lawsuits from private citizens. The first step is to always DENY the claim and force you to sue. Then, they stall, hoping you go away. And when you win? No problem, they just hand you tax money we all paid them. Just like the Colorado cops in question within this blog. They didn’t get fired, did they? Nope.

    Government is no longer your friend. Government only wants you to feed its need for funding. Aside from that, you do only what they allow you to do. You obey. You O B E Y.

  6. Mark Brennan’s link to the subject of steroid use by city of denver cops is from 2005, years before the beating. When I tried google search for “steroid use police” it came back about 614,000 results including ABC News and the New York Times. In 2008, steroid testing for NYC cops was made mandatory on entrance and at two years and it was added to random drug testing.

    Here is the Loveland CO police drug use policy:

    The use of narcotics and dangerous drugs as defined in CRS 12-22-301 (16), 12-
    22-403 (4), (5a), (13), or (14) beyond experimentation, can be grounds for
    disqualification. This does not exclude persons involved in clinical research as defined
    in CRS 12-22-403 (3), pursuant to section 12-22-408. Immediate disqualification can
    result from:
    a. Felony conviction for dispensing of dangerous, narcotic drugs, or steroids.
    b. Use of narcotic or dangerous drugs without a doctor’s prescription.
    c. Undetected drug activity, including manufacturing, cultivating, possession, dispensing, or consumption, still prosecutable as a felony under the statute of
    limitations in the State of Colorado or Federal criminal justice system.
    d. Any illegal involvement with illegal drugs, including steroids, within the three years prior to application.

    One of the remarkable anomalies of the anti-steroid campaign of the past two decades is that it has virtually ignored the many reports of steroid use by police officers in the United States and in other countries. Unknown but clearly significant numbers of policemen have imported, smuggled, sold, and used anabolic steroids over this time period. According to an article that appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin in 1991: “Anabolic steroid abuse by police officers is a serious problem that merits greater awareness by departments across the country.” (1) In 2003 another expert offered a similar assessment. Little research has been done on the use of steroids by police, said Larry Gaines, former executive director of the Kentucky Chiefs of Police Association. “But I think it’s a larger problem than people think.”

    A 2005 article
    Dopers in Uniform: Cops on Steroids

    by John Hoberman, Ph.D.
    Author of “Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping”
    Professor of Germanic Studies
    University of Texas at Austin

    So by good practice police management standards and reflecting State of Colorado statute, the City of Denver should be testing police officers for steroid use. Does it?

  7. Good Call, Kate!

    Many cops work out, for obvious reasons, and many take it to an extreme, with the aid of steroids.

    Some of them are bullies by nature, and take it to a new level when armed with the authority of the law and weapons.

    They give all the good cops a bad name, yet even most good cops go along with protecting them in the misguided belief protecting even the worst among them better protects them all.

    Pictures of James Turney, who unnecessarily shot and killed mentally disabled Black kid Paul Childs, suggested the same about him.

    After a slowdown by the Denver police to protest the mild punishment he received (90-day suspension), the Civil Service Commission hearing officer exonerated him completely of any blame in the shooting. The DPD then went back to its normal rate of writing tickets.

    The hearing officer who exonerated Turney of any blame in killing a retarded Black kid, John Criswell, is the same hearing officer who found that Firefighter Billy Cadorna did not commit the crime of which the City fraudulently accused him, yet refused to reinstate him, or grant him pay in lieu of reinstatement, because Cadorna was over age 50, and thereby exposed the City to the $1.22 million judgment and $850,000 settlement I obtained.

    The difference? The Firefighters Union sold out Billy Cadorna, and refused to assist him despite his innocence. That is why Cadorna came begging to me for help long after his termination.

    I suspect the Union sold Cadorna out in exchange for favors the City granted the Union in exchange, such as the promotion of a favored Firefighter close to the Union President. I am told the Union President’s brother received a promotion around the same time.

    Criswell knew that the Union was indifferent to Cadorna’s fate, and that the City very much wanted Cadorna hosed. So, Criswell hosed Cadorna as a favor to the City.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of municipal politics, in which those who enforce the law deem themselves above it, and the taxpayer pays the price.

    Facilitated by unscrupulous, lapdog City Attorneys who will blow goats to keep their modest paychecks coming, these “public servants” get away with murder, sometimes literally.

  8. Has anyone done a drug test on Officer Sparks? He looks as if he’s on steroids, which can cause excessive aggression and anger.

  9. What is your basis for writing that the public entities would not behave differently depending on their insurance coverage?

    I got the insurance policies from CIRSA for the City of Steamboat Springs CO when I sued them and their maximum exposure if my claim was paid either by CIRSA’s employee crime or their “errors and omissions” insurance was only 10K. 10K is not enough to give any deterrent effect to all sorts of local government corruption whether you call it an error or a crime.

    One reason you say that Denver Police are not accountable is that they have avoided evidentiary hearings. Brennan’s case involved the fire department, right?

    It is much more likely that a person would have a 42 usc section 1983 claim against a police department than a fire department because § 1983 is used for deliberate violations of rights and that is mostly by police forces or those with similar functions i.e. USMS — please contribute……

    I think that the corruption sort of creeps up and a wider and wider ring of people are directly or indirectly involved. Indirectly meaning failure to regulate such as in the case of CIRSA not collecting the required paperwork.

    Writers use the phrase “culture of corruption”. Sort of like a culture of weeds. It keeps getting bigger and bigger. It creeps up on those directly involved with it too.

    One thing that really struck me about the individuals involved in processing claims against Colorado local governments, and their lawyers, were usually pretty old and had been sitting in the same position or function for 20-30 years. Basically, they had opportunity to “sweep the evidence under the rug”.

  10. For God’s sake, Kay, what are you saying, that public or private entities should not have insurance? With respect, your have wasted a lot of space, and distracted from the larger issue, by going off on such a tangent.

    They are not cavalier about the truth and the law because they have insurance, and would conduct themselves in exactly the same fashion even without insurance. Indeed, many such judgments are not paid out of insurance.

    They are cavalier about the law and the truth because they are never held accountable by elected officials, much less by the electorate, which is for the most part kept in the dark about the degree of corruption and careerism that permeate the snakes in the grass that command these “public servants”. In fact, the more one is a stranger to the truth and the law, the higher will one rise in any large municipal bureaucracy, including Denver’s.

    Officer James Turney, who quite unnecessarily shot and killed a mentally disabled Black kid named Paul Childs who posed no serious threat to him, was ultimately exonerated of any wrongdoing by the City’s corrupt Civil Service Commission and its lapdog hearing officer. The mere 90-day suspension he received was rescinded.

    He was exonerated because, had he not been, the DPD rank and file would have continued their massive slowdown in writing tickets, which was costing the City millions, and would have actively opposed the Mayor and council members in subsequent elections. Their electoral influence is huge.

    THIS, not insurance, is what influences these people to behave as they do, contrary to the law and the public interest.

  11. These Colorado cities are not self insured. They, or at least most of them are insured by CIRSA. What is CIRSA? Is CIRSA a state agency — if so why not so listed on State and their own website? Is CIRSA a business — if so why not so listed on Secretary of State website? Is CIRSA a corporation, a partnership? What are CIRSA’s claims handling policies and why aren’t they public information as required by CRS 24-10-115.5? Is CIRSA an insurance company — if so why isn’t it listed today as an insurance company under the insurance company name search of the State of Colorado? Why don’t any reports on CIRSA show up on the State websites until 2010 when there is a very short form in which the place for the NAIC number is blank?

    If you have a claim under section 1983 against a CIRSA insured, what procedure is used?

  12. so Kay,

    whats you point. If self insured they “Have the ability” to pay a claim. If operating in a state and within that state they do not need a foreign agent. Anyone conducting business without a home office in that (or any) state, is considered a foreign company…..dba in that state…..

  13. Here is CIRSA’s website

    Do you see any reference on either the State of Colorado’s website or CIRSA’s website to CIRSA’s claims procedure?
    24-10-115.5. Authority for public entities to pool insurance coverage
    (5) The commissioner of insurance, or any person authorized by him, shall conduct an insurance examination at least once a year to determine that proper underwriting techniques and sound funding, loss reserves, and claims procedures are being followed. This examination shall be paid for by the self-insurance pool out of its funds at the same rate as provided for foreign insurance companies under section 10-1-204 (9), C.R.S.

    Do you see any reference on CIRSA’s website to it being a state agency? Do you see the name of CIRSA’s director listed on its current website?

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