DENVER (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has found a Denver police technician was paid thousands of dollars to stay home and recuperate from a line-of-duty injury in 2013, but while collecting his paycheck, he was simultaneously moonlighting, making thousands of dollars by putting on lucrative private seminars in Texas, and at his home in Parker, Colo.
“I made a mistake,” said DPD Technician Brett Titus when confronted by CBS4 about records that showed when he was being paid to stay home and recover from a work- related injury, he was instead in Texas operating his private business, “TacDogs,” being paid to train officers from multiple police departments in how to handle police dogs.
“It’s a clerical error,” said Titus. “I screwed up and will take my lumps. I’m fessing up and not denying anything, absolutely.”
The confession came after CBS4 uncovered records showing Titus suffered a serious knee injury at work April 8, 2013 while pursuing a suspect. According to a narrative of what happened, Titus was going over a fence in East Denver and landed wrong, injuring his left knee.
The police officer said it necessitated surgery. After that, Titus went on what is known as limited or light duty, meaning he was unable to perform his normal job. He remained on limited duty through September 2013, being paid his full $82,000 a year salary although not able to work as a K9 officer.
However, just 10 days after the accident, and while on limited duty, CBS4 uncovered records showing that Titus traveled to Texas to train K9 officers at the Plano Police Department for four days. From there he proceeded on to the League City Police Department, also in Texas, where he was paid to put on a four-day K9 training seminar, all while he was purportedly too injured to work and was being paid by Denver to stay home.
While Titus admitted what he did was wrong, he also justified it by saying, ‘The guys that I teach had this planned for a long time and I would have felt like a heel not to go.”
Asked how he could be too injured to work for the DPD but well enough to travel and put on K9 seminars a thousand miles away, Titus explained, “I don’t do anything but stand there and talk. Basically just stand around and talk is pretty easy … it’s not that hard.”
Titus said he believed the CBS4 investigation had caught him “double dipping” for four or five days, but it actually appears to be more than that.
The CBS4 investigation also found that from May 21 to May 26, 2013, while still on limited duty, still being paid full salary, Titus put on another K9 training seminar at his home in Parker. CBS4 obtained records from the Littleton Police Department and the Greenwood Village Police Department showing that they paid Titus’ company, TacDogs, thousands of dollars to train their officers at his home during that timeframe.
“If there’s more than five days, I’ll admit to that too,” said Titus.
Cmdr. Matt Murray, a DPD spokesman, told CBS4 what the television station’s investigation had uncovered appeared to be problematic.
“You can’t get paid by two people at the same time for the same hours. That’s not appropriate,” said Murray.
Murray said that based on what CBS4 had revealed, the Denver Police Department had begun its own Internal Affairs investigation into potential policy violations.
“We’re going to look at it and if there is anything inappropriate we will take action and hold the officer accountable,” said Murray.
He said the investigation was a “priority” and would be aggressively pursued.
A comparison of Technician Titus’ work records and the paid seminars he put on around Colorado and around the country indicated that most of the time Titus would use comp days, vacation days or sick days when he was conducting outside business, but not always.
Murray said DPD would also look into another issue revealed in the CBS4 investigation. When he was placed on limited duty, Titus was sent a letter April 29, 2013 from DPD’s Limited Duty Section outlining five restrictions he would face while on the sidelines.
“You are prohibited from driving a marked Denver police car,” reads the letter.
But a CBS4 review of Titus’ mileage and gas logs shows that between April and September of 2013, when Titus was on limited duty and prohibited from driving a marked Denver police vehicle, he actually put about 6,000 miles on his marked department vehicle, filling it up with city gas 30 separate times at an approximate cost of $2,000.
“The amount of miles is certainly concerning,” said Murray. “The amount of miles is something we are going to have to look into.”
Murray said although Titus was prohibited from driving a marked department vehicle while injured, he said it was a murky area for police K9 handlers who have to transport their dogs, which live with them full time.
The problems with moonlighting are nothing new for the Denver Police Department. In 2003, a CBS4 investigation found three top DPD commanders leaving their jobs in the middle of the day to earn an extra $30 per hour by acting as crossing guards at a southeast Denver private school. Two of the commanders received transfers and lengthy unpaid suspensions following the CBS4 investigation, and a third resigned after an internal recommendation that he be fired for his actions. Gerry Whitman, the police chief at that time, said changes were made after that investigation to ensure the same thing didn’t happen again.
But in 2008, the Denver Auditors Office found persistent problems with DPD’s secondary employment for officers, including officers calling in sick so they could work lucrative off-duty jobs and some officers working secondary jobs even though they were on limited duty, too disabled to work their primary DPD jobs. The audit found that of 44 officers on limited duty status, three officers were also scheduled to work a total of 14 secondary employment shifts, according to the audit.
The police department again said steps were taken to address those problems.
Murray said after this week’s CBS4 investigation revealing double dipping, the department would again take steps — if needed — to close any loopholes and tighten its system for monitoring police off-duty work.
After the CBS4 investigation began, Titus’ website advertising his business, TacDogs.com, was essentially taken down. It previously listed seminars he had conducted around the country and the costs to police departments, along with photos and links. But after CBS4 began requesting records, the website now says “TACDOGS is under construction.”
That website change was also noted by Denver’s Ethics Board, which also began looking into certain aspects of Titus’ K9 training business following the CBS4 Investigation.
The Denver Police Department asked the Ethics Board for an opinion on whether or not Titus has been violating city ethics rules. At an Oct. 22 meeting, Ethics Board members raised questions about Titus’ sergeant at work, Brad Johnson, also doing past work advising Titus’ K9 training company. They said Johnson was an “honorary instructor” for TacDogs while also supervising Titus at work. Several board members said it appeared to be a potential problem to have a work supervisor also working for your private company.
“That could be very bad practice,” said Ethics Board member Roy Wood. Board member Sylvia Smith said, “That doesn’t sound right.”
Ethics Board members also raised questions about Titus being given paid time off by DPD to attend and instruct at K9 conferences and seminars, while simultaneously promoting his private business.
“We need some bright lines,” said Ethics Board member Brian Spano.
Another board member, Edgar Neel, said if Titus was using his DPD status to promote his private seminars, “That, I have a problem with.”
A Denver Police Department Internal Affairs investigator said while the IA case was ongoing, the department was seeking ethics guidance on more murky, gray areas. In a written opinion, the Ethics Board said, “To avoid any possible conflict of interest and prevent any appearance of impropriety, we would encourage the DPD to establish clear parameters for any future conferences, seminars or trainings by Technician Titus.”
Still unclear is precisely what Titus’ supervisors knew about his moonlighting activities, and when they knew it. His direct supervisor, Sgt. Brad Johnson, approved Titus being on limited duty in May of 2013 and appeared to be aware of Titus’ limitations. However, CBS4 also found records that show Johnson then signed off on sending another DPD K9 officer, Lane Gardner, to Titus’ home for four days of the May 21-26, 2013 training. An email from CBS4 to Sgt. Johnson seeking clarification did not elicit a response.
Titus told CBS4 Denver taxpayers “absolutely” should be repaid for days when he was pocketing outside income while collecting his full salary.