DENVER (CBS4)– Police in Denver are being accused of lying to protect themselves. That allegation comes from the final report by the department’s outgoing independent monitor.
Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal said the report, released Thursday, has been a long time coming. He accuses police in Denver of becoming worse as the situation progressed and then dramatically so in the last year and a half.
Rosenthal said police actively worked to avoid negative reports, “It does appear to be an attempt, a deliberate attempt to protect officers from the imposition of severe discipline.”
In the report, Rosenthal criticizes not only the Denver Police Department but the internal affairs division. He said lying officers were protected from discipline.
“What we have here is an entrenched culture of circle the wagons, defend and justify bad conduct,” said Rosenthal.
The Independent Monitor’s Office reviews hundreds of cases. Sources told CBS4 that one instance occured during a string of violent attacks on the 16th Street Mall. In that case Denver Police Detective Paul Baca allegedly encouraged an attack victim to lie about a broken tooth, even though that victim had sustained the injury in a separate incident.
The report also states that Denver officers asked leading questions to show favorably on subject officers.
“I am alarmed and dismayed at the behavior of the independent monitor,” said Denver Safety Manager Alex Martinez.
He called the report reckless and offensive and said concerns raised by the outgoing monitor irrelevant.
“I characterize it as nit-picky. By that I mean he’s criticizing things that don’t affect the final outcome,” said Martinez.
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Rosenthal said those details matter. He accuses the police department of protecting their own.
“The reality is it sends a horrible message to the Denver Police Department and the community and the justice system to suggest that officers can lie and stay on the job as a police officer,” said Rosenthal.
Rosenthal released this statement after Martinez’s news conference: “It is unfortunate that the Manager of Safety does not appear to understand the significance of the deficiencies in the Denver Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. As he is the ultimate decision maker for the Department of Safety, his failure to acknowledge there is even a problem is distressing and evidences a need for outside intervention. It is my opinion that the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division needs to open an investigation into the Denver Police Department as the Department has established its inability to protect the public from police misconduct, including violations of civil rights.”
Martinez then responded to that reaction: “If Mr. Rosenthal truly believes an investigation by the Department of Justice is warranted, he should have requested it before now and not as an emotional response to my remarks that his criticisms are unwarranted.”