DENVER (CBS4) – In an email to all members of the Denver Police Department, Chief Gerry Whitman says claims he ordered an officer fired in an effort to hang on to his job are “ridiculous and untrue.”
Whitman sent the email out to “the men and women of the Denver Police Department” last Friday afternoon. A copy was obtained by CBS4 and posted on the station’s website.
Most of the email deals with Whitman’s recommendation March 14 to fire Officer Devin Sparks. Sparks is the officer caught on videotape in 2009 throwing Michael DeHerrera to the ground in Lower Downtown as DeHerrera spoke to his father via cellphone. The police department initially recommended a three day suspension for Officer Sparks. Whitman says in his email that original recommendation came from Deputy Chief Michael Battista. But after the videotape of the incident emerged, public outrage followed and the case was reopened.
That led to Whitman recommending eight months later that Sparks be terminated. Denver’s Manager of Safety is currently contemplating whether to go along with Whitman’s recommendation or follow a different course.
“I did not make a recommendation on the DeHerrera case prior to my recommendation on Monday, March 14, 2011,” wrote Whitman. “Deputy Chief Battista made the original recommendation in July, 2010. Therefore, the accusation that I changed my opinion is not true.”
The DPD Chief went on to write that he did not consult with his Deputy Chief on the initial discipline given to Officer Sparks.
“Finally,” wrote Whitman, “there has been an accusation made that the ‘motive’ for my decision in the DeHerrera case was ‘… to help him retain his job when we get a new mayor …’ (Quote from a Detective Rogers TV interview). This claim is absolutely ridiculous and untrue,” wrote Whitman.
Whitman says he did not make his recommendation to fire Sparks based on pressure from “anyone outside of the Department and the media coverage did not influence my recommendations.”
On Monday, the Denver Police Protective Association held an “emergency meeting” to address the Sparks discipline. Asked what happened at the meeting, PPA President Nick Rogers texted “Nothn 2 report.”
Read the email sent from Chief Whitman to Department members here.