Making the Police Accountable For Property Damage

DENVER --  --  By Tammy Vigil

A Denver woman whose condo was damaged by Denver SWAT more than a year ago was the force of change for the independent police monitor.
70-year-old Marcia Murphy says police used her home to launch tear gas at an adjacent unit in the Woodside Condominiums at 8555 Fairmont. They broke a $500 window and a doorknob.
When she called the city to find out where to send the bill, she was told the government wouldn't pay because it operates under immunity--meaning it can't be sued or forced to pay damages.

She called up the Denver's police monitor, Richard Rosenthal, who agreed with her it wasn't fair, and would try to work something out.

Rosenthal then convinced the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado to donate the seed money to get the fund started.
Rosenthal says, "We don't want the public to suffer property damage. We don't want innocent people to be angry at police for damages they caused. We want to pay for damages, so they'll continue to have good relations with police and the city."
He says if the city didn't work something out, he felt it could disenfranchise the public from helping police. "The people being helped are deserving. And the officers are doing their job protecting our community. And sometimes there is collateral damage we'd like to fix," he says.

Murphy says it's the right thing to do. "Even if I hadn't been paid for it, I'm glad they did it. But that doesn't seem to be close to fair to me," she says. "If any person, any business had done that, they would have been liable and taken care of it. Why the police department and government is different, I don't know."

The fund has $5,000 right now. But Rosenthal hopes that amount will grow as the private sector donates to it.