How many city officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?
The joke crossed my mind after reporting on a mom from Sterling thrown behind bars on a Denver warrant intended for a suspect who is seven years younger and 90 pounds lighter.
It has festered since other victims have come forward after also being snatched erroneously and thrown in jail. Those include a student forced to spend eight days behind bars answering to the name of another man, a retiree mistaken for a suspect who was long dead and a black man locked up on a white man's warrant.
Safety officials pledged to fix their policies. And city brass promised to mend their ways.
"We are committed to preventing this type of situation from happening again," Mayor John Hickenlooper said in January.
Because nine months after the latest batch of victims sued over the screw-ups, the city hasn't bothered to clear some of their names from the criminal database. Piling recklessness upon recklessness, Denver still hasn't set the record straight.
"It pisses me off beyond words," says Christina FourHorn, the Sterling mom who had no record before her wrongful arrest. She worries her license as a certified nurse assistant is at risk because of the city's mistake. "My name is on that database because the city messed up. They should have fixed it already."
Consider this. If your wallet were stolen and the culprit used your ID when arrested for another crime, Denver would offer the servicesof a victim's advocate to clean up your erroneous criminal records.
But when the city's own police or sheriff's deputies mess up your identity, you're likely to get no help disentangling your name from the true suspect's nor wiping their mistake off your rap sheet.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation database shows the names of at least three mistaken-identity victims as aliases for the real suspects, and at least four still with criminal records stemming from the errors.
"There are inaccuracies in there, no question about it," says CBI's Lance Clem, noting that it's Denver's responsibility to provide accurate and complete records.
"We have to look at what the process is," responds Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown. "Is it CBI who removes it or Denver who removes it?"
"Each of these cases is different," adds city Attorney David Fine.
CBI's database is the key source for employers and landlords doing background checks. Police officers refer to it when deciding who to arrest.