Denver police union buys 30 billboards to fight proposed changes to officer disciplinary system

Union: Changes would violate officers' rights

DENVER - The Denver police union has paid for 30 billboards across the metro area to protest what it calls an unfair change proposed for the disciplinary system for officers.

"Gangs Or Cops," one billboard says, "Which Would You Rather Have On Your Street?"

The department's Rule 12 governs part of the appeals process after Denver Manager of Safety Alex Martinez orders disciplinary action against an officer.

Martinez has proposed that the Civil Service Commission, which hears disciplinary appeals, should only be allowed to review and issue a ruling based on his disciplinary decision. Right now, the commission reviews Martinez' decision and considers the original complaint against the officer. 

Martinez maintains it lengthens the appeals process, but rand-and-file officers claim it gives him too much power.

"He's not infallible," said Denver Police Protective Association President Nick Rogers. "He can make mistakes."

Rogers is concerned the proposed change would strip away an officer's right to a formal hearing.

"There is no process prior to his decision," said Rogers. "He is GOD. There's no deposing of witnesses. There's no cross-examination. It is strictly based upon a paper review."

People who agree with the proposed change say it would help streamline the entire system.

"It should be very clear cut," said Shawn Johnson.

Johnson is among several people who are waiting for closure in their cases of excessive force against Denver officers.

In April 2009, surveillance cameras caught images of Johnson and his friend Michael DeHerrera being beaten by two officers.

In 2011, the manager of safety fired the officers for using inappropriate force and lying about details of the incident. But then, several months later, the officers were reinstated to the department after an appeal over a technicality.

Johnson said it's telling that he's still waiting for answers on his case more than three years later.

"This expansion of time is absurd I think," Johnson said. "It sort of violates your rights again and reminds you of what you went through. I absolutely think there should be protections for (officers), but I think you shouldn't defend recklessness."

7NEWS asked Rogers what he'd say to people like Johnson and several others who are still waiting for justice in their cases.

"It's due process. They have their side of the story, but their side is not always the right side," Rogers said.

The proposed change must be approved by the Civil Service Commission and will include a public hearing. No date has been set for the hearing yet.

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