Pot isn’t causing problems in Denver, but the city’s deputies are

We’ve heard a lot of dire predictions from Colorado law enforcement officials about how pot legalization will spark an outbreak of crime, violence, stoned driving and general mayhem. So far, there’s little evidence that any of those problems.

On the contrary, crime in Denver, for example is down. Tax revenue is up. And it’s looking like Denver law enforcement agencies should perhaps spend less time spreading panic about marijuana and more time keeping rogue cops in line. From the Denver Post:

The embattled Denver Sheriff Department has 114 open internal affairs investigations, with nearly a third of those involving allegations of excessive force by deputies, city records show.

Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson said Thursday that he is addressing the issue of deputy misconduct by introducing new training and other resources to help deputies deal with stress. The plan includes mentoring for recruits, a new chaplaincy program and an evaluation of shift and work hours.

“These officers work in an environment where they’re charged to maintain order. They’re charged to maintain discipline,” Wilson said. “And that’s with people who aren’t always compliant and the ever-present potential for violence.

“You couple that with real-life stressors that are off the job. When that stress goes unmanaged too long, it can lead to bad decisions.”

Officer stress also has been a problem at the Denver Police Department.

Chief Robert White ordered a review of the department’s handling of alcohol abuse within the ranks. The chief said he was concerned after a rash of officer arrests, most of which were alcohol-related.

Of the 114 sheriff’s cases under investigation, 70 have been filed this year. Forty-two were filed last year, and two are holdovers from 2012, said Mary Dulacki, records coordinator for the Denver Department of Safety.

Thirty-five cases involve allegations of excessive force, Dulacki said.

The paper notes that many of the 114 open investigations likely involve more than one officer, so the total number of officers under investigation is probably much higher. Two of the officers under investigation are high-ranking managers. Moreover, it look like there’s some reason to believe that these investigations aren’t being handled properly.

The department has been under scrutiny for its handling of internal affairs investigations since December when Denver’s independent monitor released a report critical of the department’s handling of inmate grievances.

The monitor’s office found 45 complaints of serious misconduct that had not been sent to the sheriff’s internal affairs bureau.

Most recently, a federal judge criticized the jail and the Denver Police Department’s handling of an allegation of excessive force that resulted in a federal lawsuit. In that case, a former inmate is suing the city and two sheriff’s deputies, saying they assaulted him or allowed him to be assaulted.

U.S. District Judge John Kane has suggested two police internal affairs officers tried to intimidate a witness in the case. He has asked federal authorities to investigate, ordered the release of internal affairs documents and held at least one witness deposition in open court.

So yeah. Maybe they spend less time worrying about pot. Better yet, a few of these officers might even consider ingesting a little pot themselves after clocking out. Could take the edge off.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
Continue reading
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read

opinions

the-watch

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters