Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Editorial: Terrible twist in Denver police saga - The Denver Post

Editorial: Terrible twist in Denver police saga - The Denver Post

You can build all the bridges you want to boost public trust in Denver's police department, but it takes only one mind-boggling disciplinary decision to undermine that work.

Such a decision came Tuesday when a panel decided to reinstate two Denver police officers who had been fired for lying about the brutal 2009 beating of a 24-year-old man in LoDo.

The decision, based on a narrow reading of the city charter, has a created an injustice that must be righted.

We're glad the city not only is appealing the reinstatements of Officer Devin Sparks and Cpl. Randy Murr, but is asking for a stay of the decision, which was made by a three- member panel of the Civil Service Commission.

These officers should not be allowed to work for the Denver Police Department even for a short time while the city works through what we hope is a successful appeal process.

The incident in question took place outside a nightclub in LoDo in April 2009. Michael DeHerrera and a friend had been booted from the club after the friend used a women's restroom.

A police department video camera recorded DeHerrera standing still, doing nothing more than talking on a cellphone.

That's when Sparks grabbed DeHerrera and threw him face-first onto the pavement and beat him repeatedly with what is called a sap, a piece of metal wrapped in leather.

The officers, not knowing their actions had been recorded, had maintained DeHerrera was the aggressor. Independent police monitor Richard Rosenthal in 2010 called the police report recounting that version of events "pure fiction." Rosenthal had urged the firings of Sparks and Murr.

Instead of firing the officers, Ron Perea, Denver's safety manager at the time, gave the officers light suspensions. It was a stunning decision, and Perea reversed himself a month later.

That reversal is at the crux of the decision made by the panel. It's important to realize the panel did not consider the facts of the case in overturning the firings. The panel said the procedure was faulty — that Perea made the decision after a 10-day deadline for appeals.

The saga continues with the officers subsequently being fired by new safety manager Charles Garcia. However, it's the Perea reversal that is at issue.

We think the three-member panel was too restrictive in its reading of the charter in ruling Perea was prohibited from reconsidering the disciplinary decision.

The city will appeal to the Civil Service Commission, where we hope this decision will be overturned. If it is not, the city ought to take the matter to the court system.

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