Denver Police response to use of force discovery in Federal lawsuit

The City of Denver was sued by Jason Garber claiming that a Denver Police Officer used excessive force in arresting him. The judge in the case issued an order that the City of Denver release all reports relating to use of force by Denver Police Officers and all investigations into excessive force allegations.

It is a gross mischaracterization to say that all of these reports and documents are “potential brutality” cases.

In fact, there were an average of 140 investigations into whether use of force was appropriate (per year) during the period under review. To put this in perspective, from 2003 – 2010, Officers from the Denver Police Department responded to over 4.5 MILLION police actions.

Since 2005, Richard Rosenthal or his designee from the Office of the Independent Monitor has certified every investigation into allegations of excessive force as “thorough and complete”. And in his 2010 annual report, he states that 94.4% of all Denver Police Officers had NO sustained cases of any kind.

The documents, which are being provided per the judge’s order, contain thousands of pages of internal affairs data base summaries, investigative material and departmental procedural findings. There are two cases alone with over 1,000 pages of discovery.

Per the Denver Police Department’s Operations Manual (see the full detail at the bottom of this release), a use of force report is required by an officer -normally when no complaint is even alleged. For instance, if an officer encounters a suspect who was injured (say in a bar fight) prior to an arrest, the officer must complete the use of force report.

Clearly, painting the Denver Police Department as “brutal” is an attempt to influence the court process.

All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated, and once complete, undergo numerous layers of civilian review. And from time to time, there may be a disagreement on a case or its outcome, but that result is exceedingly rare. Overwhelmingly, each layer of oversight agrees on the vast majority of cases.

Denver Police Department's Operations Manual excerpt:

105.02 Use of Force Procedures (Revised 05-2011)


Officers shall immediately report the circumstances of all resistances or incidents involving use of force to a supervisor or command officer. The supervisor or command officer shall ensure that all sections of the Denver Police Department Operations Manual and the Colorado Revised Statutes have been followed.

a. The Use of Force Report, DPD 12, related supervisory investigation and reports are required in any of the following circumstances:

1. An officer discharges a firearm other than in training or for bona fide recreational purposes.

2. A person is injured or dies while in custody. See OMS 301.13, In-Custody Incident Investigations and OMS 301.14(8), In-Custody Death Investigations.

3. A person is injured or complains of injury as a result of use of any physical force including the use of any weapon, chemical agent or deployment of a Police Service Dog.

4. A defendant is charged with resistance and/or assault to a police officer.

a. In any case of assault on a police officer, "Investigation of Assault" will be charged. The suspect should not be charged with resistance or any additional charges at this time, however, a General Sessions Summons and Complaint containing any additional charges is to be made describing details of the incident. Upon completing the GSS&C, the "service" area will be left blank and the form will be forwarded to the Assault Unit along with all necessary paperwork.

5. An officer encounters an individual with obvious injuries, and the circumstances of the encounter coupled with the nature of the injuries are such that the person may claim the injuries resulted from contact with the officer.

6. An officer applies force through use of the following, whether an arrest is or is not made:

a. Any tool, object or device used as an impact weapon.

b. Carotid compression technique.

c. Chemical agent.

d. Pepper Ball.

e. ERD (Taser).

f. Shotgun or forty (40) mm less lethal round.

g. Police service dog.

h. Hand strike, leg thrust / kick.

b. The primary involved officer will prepare Report of Use of Force/Injury, DPD 12, Prior to Arrest (Use of Force/Injury), paying particular attention to the facts of the incident. The report shall include:

1. An accurate description of the incident using the coded tables and text boxes on the Use of Force form, and

2. Names of all involved officers, suspect(s) and witnesses. Additional forms will be used as continuation pages. Only those sections applicable need be completed on continuation pages, and

3. A narrative summary of the significant facts of the incident which are not listed on the front of the form.

c. The officer's supervisor shall respond to the scene and shall personally contact the officer immediately after the incident. The supervisor will interview witnesses and suspects, collect evidence and take photographs when appropriate. The supervisor will assist in preparing the Use of Force/Injury Report, paying particular attention to the facts of the incident. When indicated, supervisors shall counsel officers in methods to better handle future situations to avoid or minimize the use of force.

d. Each resistance, injury prior to arrest and injury while in custody incident will require the supervisor to conduct an independent and complete investigation and prepare and distribute written reports and documents the minimum guidelines for which are described below.

1. The supervisor's conclusion that the details of the incident and facts contained in the Use of Force/Injury Report are accurate, and

2. Names and statements of all witnesses, and

3. A narrative summary of any significant facts determined through investigation, and

4. Make every reasonable effort to identify video and/or still photos that may contain evidence relevant to the investigation and document actions taken to obtain and preserve the evidence and/or the instruments that contain such evidence, and

5. The supervisor's conclusions that:

a. The Use of Force, employed tactics, and all reporting requirements were performed within policy or

b. One or more policies or procedures may have been violated. Cite the specific Operations Manual Section. If the supervisor finds that violations may have occurred, his/her commanding officer will be immediately notified and will determine the appropriate course of action regarding additional investigation i.e. contact of IAB, etc.

6. When investigating a Use of Force incident involving deployment of the ERD/Taser, the supervisor must recover and place into the Property Bureau the Taser probes and identification confetti. Only medical personnel will be allowed to remove probes from individuals struck by the ERD/Taser. Data from the ERD/Taser shall be downloaded into a computer file and the results shall be documented as part of the use of force investigation.

7. The Report of Use of Force / Injury Prior to Arrest, DPD 12, shall be promptly distributed as follows:

a. The original report, along with all original statements, copies of other reports and photos, shall be forwarded to the Internal Affairs Bureau in a sealed envelope.

b. One copy shall be forwarded to the officer's Division Chief.

c. One copy shall be forwarded to the officer's Bureau or District Commander, through the chain of command.

8. Supervisory or command officers performing secondary employment SHALL NOT investigate use of force incidents or injury prior to arrest incidents involving themselves or any officer performing secondary employment under their supervision. On-duty personnel shall be summoned for this function. See 105.00(1) (b) above.

9. Any supervisory or command officer who investigates any incident involving any officer engaged in secondary employment must inspect the off duty officer's Request for Secondary Employment Approval, DPD 149, and document the results.

10. Supervisors and Command officers SHALL NOT investigate use of force incidents in which they are personally involved.

Posted on September 15, 2011 (Archive on October 15, 2011)
Posted by kpellegrin  Contributed by kpellegrin