Colo. Officers Fire, Reinstated Now Fired Again



Two officers who were fired, then reinstated after an aggressive arrest was caught on videotape, have been fired again.

Officer Devin Sparks and Cpl. Randy Murr were initially disciplined for filing an inaccurate police report about the incident. However, following the release of a video showing the officers throwing Michael DeHerrera to the ground outside a downtown nightclub in April 2009, the new Denver Manager of Safety fired the officers for lying during an investigation into the arrest.

In September 2011, the Denver Civil Service Commission hearing panel voted to reinstate the officers saying a former city manager did not have power to reopen an investigation after initially suspending Sparks for 24 houes and Murr for three days.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock vowed to appeal the case and on Monday, the Civil Service Commission reversed the panel's decision and said "the Manager of Safety's jurisdiction over disciplinary matters does not end once the ten-day time period to appeal the order of discipline has passed."

The Commission determined that the authority to rescind and modify a disciplinary order is necessarily implied by the Denver City Charter?s grant of general disciplinary authority over the Police and Fire Departments to the Manager of Safety.

"I am pleased that the Civil Service Commission has corrected the earlier decision of the hearing panel," said Manager of Safety Alex J. Martinez. "In my view, this significant decision correctly holds that the authority of the Manager of Safety includes the implied powers necessary to exercise disciplinary control of the Denver Police Department."

"It is critical to the Police, and to the community, that disciplinary orders are upheld," said Martinez. "I will continue to impose discipline in a fair and consistent manner and to defend those orders before hearing panels, and if necessary, beyond hearing panels to the full commission."

Videotaped Arrest

7NEWS broke this story in 2010 and was the first to air the videotape of the April 4, 2009 beating.

A police video of the incident shows Michael DeHerrera standing on a corner, talking on a phone for some time while police arrest his friend, Shawn Johnson.

The tape then shows Sparks grab DeHerrera and take him to the ground, but the video pans wide as officers subdue DeHerrera. After the camera pulls to a wide shot, officers can be seen hitting DeHerrera, but it is impossible to tell if DeHerrera is struggling.

The video zooms back in as police lead the bloodied suspects to a police car.

The city settled with DeHerrera and Johnson for a total of $15,500, and photographs in the case show injuries to DeHerrera's face.

A variety of charges against Johnson and DeHerrera, including assault and resisting arrest, were dropped.

Officer's Fired

Then Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman recommended on March 15, 2010 that Sparks be fired and Murr be suspended for three days.

In July 2010, then Manager of Safety Ronald Perea suspended Sparks for 24 hours and Murr for three days.

One month later, Denver?s Office of the Independent Monitor recommended that both Sparks and Murr be fired for lying in the investigation and using excessive force.

In March 2011, Sparks and Murr were fired as a result of "their deceptive acts," said the new Manager of Safety Charles Garcia.

"We cannot and do not tolerate dishonesty in any safety agency," Garcia said. "I am not going to comment on the investigation. This case is currently set for what I anticipate to be an appeal. And so, I won't intend at any point to talk about either the facts of the case or any decision-making process."


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