Deputy Fired Over Excessive Force Reinstated

Written by Brian MaassDENVER (CBS4) – A City of Denver hearing officer has ordered the Denver Sheriff’s Department to reinstate Dep. Matthew Carothers, who the department fired in March of last year over what the sheriff’s department and the manager of safety viewed as a case of excessive force and lying.

“He was very, very grateful and happy and felt vindicated,” said Danny Foster, Carothers’ attorney, shortly after learning that the termination order had been overturned.

The firing stemmed from an incident on Nov. 20, 2009. Carothers and a second deputy were assigned to pick up an inmate, Alfredo Martinez, from a Denver police substation. But when Carothers attempted to move the apparently drunk inmate out of his cell, video cameras showed the deputy grabbing at Martinez’s handcuffs, yanking the prisoner through the cell door and into a cinder block wall where the prisoners head slams against the wall. Martinez needed nine stitches for the wound.

“He did feel bad, he still feels bad Martinez got hurt, but he did not intend to hurt Martinez,” Foster said.

The sheriff’s department and the manager of safety ruled that Carothers should be fired for using excessive force and lying about what occurred. Carothers appealed the termination, saying what happened was an accident and that he never lied about anything.

Last week Career Service hearing officer Bruce Plotkin agreed with Carothers. After analyzing the videotapes and testimony, Plotkin ruled that while Carothers may have pulled too hard on the prisoner, any injuries were unintentional and the deputy had no malicious intentions and was not trying to hurt Martinez.

“The most egregious factors were not established,” Plotkin wrote. “The agency failed to prove Carothers intentionally inflicted harm on Martinez and that he lied about the incident … the agency’s decision to impose dismissal was clearly excessive because it was based substantially upon considerations not supported by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Plotkin ruled that Carothers should receive a 10-day suspension over what happened and should be reinstated with back pay and benefits.

Foster contends the manager of safety “rushed to judgment” after seeing the videotapes and did a faulty investigation.

“And the problem is they did not take the time to investigate this,” Foster said. “I think they were afraid there would be bad press, and afraid they would look bad if they did not do something. The problem is Carothers did not use excessive force and did not try to injure this individual.”

Foster maintains Carothers used justifiable force, not excessive force, to control the inmate.

The Denver Sheriff’s Department and manager of safety declined to be interviewed by CBS4 about the ruling. Deputy Manager of Safety Ashley Kilroy issued the following statement: “Based on the evidence, I believe I took appropriate action in terminating Dep. Carothers and I am disappointed with the hearing officer’s decision to overturn the termination. The Manager of Safety’s Office has asked the City Attorney’s Office to appeal the decision.”

Foster said Carothers is considering his options but feels betrayed by his department and embarrassed by what he has gone through.

“If you’re going to take away their career, you can’t do it without a very thorough investigation. And when people bring evidence to you, you should review it to make sure you’re making the right decision, and fortunately for Carothers, the truth came out and he was exonerated,” Foster said.

Additional Resources

– The 19-page hearing officer’s decision reinstating Carothers

Below is a Web Extra video of two camera views of what occurred between Carothers and the inmate with unedited videotape. A caution, some of the language on the tape is strong and profane:

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  • Jim Freilinger

    This firing was justified since an experienced officer knows the limitations and potential results of excessive force. He should be terminated.

    • Curtis

      If you watch the video closely, not only did Mr. Copdom pull on the man, but he followed all the way through to the wall. This was a deliberate act of mayhem.

  • JoJo Begay

    I agree with Jim, why should the city and county of Denver Employ personnel who violate or abuse thier authority to take it out on an Inmate or anyone for that matter. Law Enforcement are held to a higher standard.they need to do their job right. that is all I have to say.

  • mildmannered

    JoJo, there was no intention of violating or abusing.

    It’s not easy trying to move a resistant inmate. Try (gently) moving your own children when they are resistant, then multiply the difficulty times 10 for a fullgrown man.

  • Manly

    Ive seen worse… he should maybe have been rehired if he hadnt lied.. maybe..
    Im not saying hes a horribad person.. maybe he would be better suited for another job, that the problem.. ofcoz they have a hard job.. its not for everyone.. and probably not for this guy,

  • Dave

    That deputy should have been fired for good.

    Also, I wonder how much the Office of the Manager of Safety is costing taxpayers. The idiots who “lead” this town are too stupid to get rid of this unnecessay expense.

    Get rid of it!

  • Mark

    I worked with Matt personally for years – before he became a deputy – and I never saw him demonstrate anything but the highest restraint, integrity, and professionalism in and out of the office.

    Good for him for finally being vindicated – sometimes the system works!

  • Rob

    Excellent work there Ashley Kilroy. After reading the entire decision by the hearing officer I can only conclude that you are incompetent and unqualified to be in a position that requires you to make serious employment decisions. The public expects people in your position to make tough decisions but that also means not rushing to judgement against employees because you are fearful of possible media reaction.

    Hopefully the new Manager of Safety will not be so quick to rush to judgement.

    • MM

      Well, I would conclude that Ashley Kilroy is more concerned with actually being competent at her job, than blindly defending every police officer in the city and that she is making very difficult decisions by standing up to the DPD.

  • AEH

    I agree with the 10 day suspension. Accidents happen and sometimes (especially if the inmate resists and then stops as this video shows) you can underestimate the exact force you are using. Anyone who says differently has obviously never served in any law enforcement position.Also, to accuse someone of lying and then never prove or even say how they lied is not going to hold up in court and makes the higher ups look incompetent and petty. Some cops abuse power, thats a fact and they should be fired. This is not that case and is simply an overreaction because of the high level of transparency in Denver when it comes to police brutality accusations. I fear the day when I need a sheriff or police officer to help me but they are frozen by fear of retaliation from white collar supervisors. I’m glad this Sheriff is reinstated and hope the appeal upholds this decision.

  • Wendy

    That jerk DID use excessive force and I hope the appeal goes through where the officer is again fired and never allowed to return to law enforcement again…

    • Mark

      I assume you have some evidence that is not presented here? From the tape it is clear the CRIMINAL was not being cooperative.

      In fact the CRIMINAL would never have found himself in jail if he was not already being a danger and a nuisance to hard working AMERICANS!

      Gain some perspective please.

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