Denver Police, Sheriff Hit With Nearly $13M Claims in Past 10 Years

August 5, 2014

A Denver Post analysis published Sunday found that the Colorado city has paid nearly $13 million over the past decade to settle legal claims involving the police and sheriff departments, and that nearly 60 percent of that amount involved excessive force or civil rights cases.

The report comes a day before the City Council considers approving a $3.25 million settlement of a federal lawsuit by former jail inmate Jamal Hunter.

Hunter says that in 2011, he was tortured with scalding water by other inmates and that a jail deputy encouraged the attack.

The judge presiding over the case asked for a federal investigation into the practices of the Denver Safety Department, which oversees the police and sheriff’s departments. The U.S. Attorney’s Office hasn’t said whether it will pursue Judge John Kane’s request.

City Attorney Scott Martinez has said the proposed Hunter settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing but the fastest way to resolve the case and proceed with reforms.

Other inmates have filed complaints stemming from incidents in which deputies allegedly used improper force. And in July, Sheriff Gary Wilson resigned amid mounting misconduct allegations against his deputies.

Mayor Michael Hancock also has called for an outside review of the sheriff’s department.

On Wednesday, former Denver jail inmate Anthony Waller filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and two deputy sheriffs. Waller was slammed against a metal window frame during a court hearing. Waller seeks $5 million in damages and an injunction that would allow the courts to supervise operations of the Denver jails. The deputy who slammed Waller against the frame was suspended for 30 days.

The Post reported last week that a deputy was suspended for 10 days in April after he was caught on video grabbing an inmate by the throat and shoving him into a wall in 2013. The inmate had been arguing with the deputy before the incident.

In another case, a jail kitchen worker faces criminal charges after he allegedly groped an inmate in March.

Last year, a federal judge overseeing a lawsuit involving a 2009 beating outside a Denver diner made the significant ruling that there was enough evidence the police department harbored a culture of abuse and cover-up that the city could be tried for it. But the lawsuit was settled before it came to trial.

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