Manager of Safety Issues Final Decision on Officer James Turney
Manager of Safety Alvin LaCabe announced Thursday his decision to suspend Officer James Turney, the officer involved in the deadly shooting of Paul Childs, for 10 months without pay based on his determination that Turney violated several Police Department rules on July 4 and 5, 2003. This discipline represents a marked increase from the written reprimand recommended by the Discipline Review Board and the 20-day suspension recommended by Police Chief Gerry Whitman.
Manager LaCabe also announced that he had conferred with Chief Whitman, who, pursuant to the authority granted to him in the police operations manual, has agreed to assign Turney to an administrative post upon his return to the department.
Turney was informed of this decision earlier today. The suspension is effective as of Friday, April 16, 2004. Turney and his attorneys have the legal right to appeal this action to the Civil Service Commission.
LaCabe found that Turney made a number of tactical and judgment errors in responding to the domestic emergency call at the Childs residence on July 5, 2003. In doing so, Turney exposed himself and others to an immediate risk of harm. These errors violated a Police Department rule and regulation requiring that officers carry out the functions of the Police Department by directing and coordinating their efforts “in such a manner as will establish and maintain the highest standard of efficiency and safety.” LaCabe further explained that he could not conclude that Turney’s actions, at the time he actually fired his weapon, violated the Department’s current use of force policy.
With respect to Turney’s threat against his former mother-in-law on July 4, 2003, and his inappropriate use of his personal cellular phone while on duty, LaCabe agreed with Chief Whitman that Turney violated the Police Department rules and regulations requiring that police officers “not engage in conduct prejudicial to the good order and police discipline of the department, or conduct unbecoming an officer,” that police officers “be held strictly accountable for the good order of the post or beat to which they have been assigned for duty” and that they “give their whole attention to their duties at all times.” He also agreed with Chief Whitman that Turney violated the Police Department rule and regulation prohibiting a police officer from violating any criminal laws, including the Colorado law prohibiting harassment.
In determining an appropriate penalty, Manager LaCabe considered numerous factors, including: the Manager of Safety’s need to maintain administrative control of the Police Department; the facts underlying the rule violations; the severity of the rule violations; Turney’s response to the alleged rule violations; Turney’s employment history; the impact of this rule violation, and discipline received by other police officers in “similar circumstances.” Based on these factors, and the totality of the circumstances, LaCabe concluded that Turney should be suspended without pay for 10 months from his position.
“This situation has generated an enormous amount of public attention and stimulated varying opinions and intense debate, both within the Police Department and the community,” said Manager of Safety LaCabe, who provides the first line of civilian review of discipline outside of the Denver Police Department process. “While I respect all of the varying opinions, I am legally and ethically bound to reach a decision based only on the facts and circumstances of these cases, the current law and rules that apply, and the judicious use of authority bestowed upon me by the City Charter.”
“The public demands, and we must demand of ourselves, accountability for our actions, no matter how difficult the circumstances under which those actions were taken,” LaCabe continued. “This decision is based on one officer’s actions and judgments; this is not an indictment of all Denver police officers, who put their lives on the line every day to protect our community.”
“I have great admiration for Al LaCabe and complete confidence in the decision he has announced today,” said Mayor John Hickenlooper, who joined LaCabe at the news conference. “In a situation fraught with heartfelt emotion from all parts of the community and from within the Police Department, I know he faithfully applied the law to the facts to reach this very difficult decision.”
Hickenlooper personally called the Childs family on Thursday to inform them of the Manager of Safety’s decision.
“The events of July 5, 2003, were a terrible tragedy for the Childs family and a terrible tragedy for the city,” Hickenlooper said. “But now, as one community, we must channel our passions, our quest for justice, and our desire for the safety of both our citizens and our police officers into constructive efforts that bring healing, peace, and genuine reform.”
Mayor Hickenlooper and Manager of Safety LaCabe did not wait for this final decision to announce substantive police reforms. The reforms announced in December 2003 included the increase and acceleration of Crisis Intervention Team training; accelerated Taser training and deployment; enhanced legal and mental health training, the creation of forums to strengthen community relations with the Police Department, and a 90-day task force to review proposed changes to the Police Department’s use of force policy and civilian oversight. The task force will conclude its three months of work on Wednesday, April 28, 2004.
Among the series of reforms announced last December was the new practice of the Manager of Safety issuing a public statement - after any DPD incident involving use of force that results in a citizen’s death or serious bodily injury - that analyzes the incident in terms of departmental policy and provides information about review processes to better serve the public interest. Manager of Safety LaCabe’s statement on the Officer Turney decision, which was distributed at the news conference, will be posted on the Manager of Safety’s web site this afternoon.
# # #