Parents of Emily Rice, who died in Denver Jail in 2006, outraged by DSD training video 'whitewash'

Emily's Protocols required deputy-training video

DENVER - A training video used for the last five years pulled by the Denver Sheriff's Department after a 7NEWS Investigation questioned its effectiveness. 

Eight years ago, 24-year-old Emily Rice bled to death in the Denver jail, her cries for help ignored.

As part of a multi-million-dollar settlement, the Denver Sheriff's Department was required to create a training video to tell the story of what went wrong that night and to train deputies to prevent another inmate from suffering Emily's fate.

Yet Emily's parents, Sue Garber and Roy Rice, are outraged after they recently watched the training video obtained by 7NEWS Reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.

The parents say the video offers no training at all, and they now wonder if what they were promised by city leaders was a lie.

"It's beyond my comprehension that they've done this," said Rice's mother, Sue Garber.

It's a slap in our family's face," said her father, Roy Rice.

--Parents Still Fighting for Justice--

Emily's parents thought their fight for justice was behind them.

On the night of Feb. 19, 2006, their daughter, Emily, died in the Denver jail less than 24 hours after she was injured in a car crash and arrested for DUI. Her internal injuries were missed by Denver Health Medical Center doctors, while her pleas for help were ignored by deputies and nurses at the jail.

Following Emily's death, her family filed a federal lawsuit against the hospital and the City and County of Denver.

"Emily's been gone for eight years, it feels like eight minutes to us," explained her mother.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I still don't cry for her," her dad said.

Two years after her death, her parents won a $7 million settlement from Denver Health and the city, but for the family it was about more than the money. The implementation of policy changes, known as "Emily's Protocols," in the Denver jail and "Emily's Rights" at Denver Health were a key part of the settlement.

"That was the main part of the case, as far as we were concerned, Emily's protocols need to be followed," said Rice.

Emily's Protocols were a list of more than two dozen new requirements jail staff were supposed to follow to make sure what happened to Emily, doesn't happen to anyone else.

--Attorney: Video Showcases DSD's 'Culture of Cover-up' --

One of those protocols required the city to create a training video for sheriff's deputies to discuss the "factual issues of the events in the Emily Rice case."

"Why are you here today?" Kovaleski asked the couple.

"We'll always be here, we'll always speak out. What happened to Emily was a crime," said Garber.

Darold Killmer was the family's attorney in Emily's case. He also hadn't seen DSD's training video until 7NEWS showed it to him.

"When I saw the video that the city produced regarding Emily's case, I was enraged," said Killmer. "This is a real indication of the culture of cover-up and denial of responsibility that has been at the jail for the last generation really."

7NEWS obtained a copy of the training video after a recent jail brutality lawsuit, filed by former inmate Jamal Hunter, appeared to show Emily's Protocols weren't being followed. The city said the video was produced by DSD in 2009, and is still being used.

The video begins with a strong warning, making sure no one shares the video without written consent from the undersheriff.

The text in the video reads, "The video may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any form, and the accounts and descriptions of this video may not be disseminated without the expressed written consent of the Undersheriff of the City and County of Denver."

"It was intentional by the city to keep this out of the hands of the people who knew better, so that they could more likely get away with their lies," Killmer said.

--Parents: Sheriff's Department Training Video 'Whitewashes' Mistakes--

7NEWS sat down with Emily's parents as they watched the video for the first time.

"That's not a training video, that's a whitewash," said Rice.

The video starts by laying out the case against Emily.

It spends nearly a minute describing in detail how intoxicated Emily was the night before she died.

The video's narrator describes how, "Emily hung out at Herman's hideaway drinking until 2a.m., maybe even 3 a.m."

It goes on to describe the type of liquor Emily drank that night.

"Specifically Jägermeister liquor, after drinking all night long without any sleep," the narrator explains.

After her parents watched the ten minute video, Kovaleski asked, "Is this what you envisioned deputies being trained about with Emily's case?"

"Not at all," said Garber.

 "No," said Rice.

"They don't care. That video was not about the Sheriff's Department, it was about bad Emily. That's a crap video," her father said.

--Deputies' Mistakes Omitted from Training Video--

The video was supposed teach the lessons of the jail staff's mistakes that lead to Emily's death. But her parents say it's what is missing from the video that is most telling.

"How is that a training video? It's a joke," her mother said.

The family said the video provides no accountability on the part of the sheriff's department for Emily's death, no accountability for what led the city to write a multi-million-dollar check.

"The guards in the Denver Sheriff's Department were every bit as responsible for Emily's death as were the people in Denver Health," said Killmer.

Killmer said the video directs the blame at Denver Health nurses and doctors, instead of deputies.

In the video, the narrator explains how, "Nurse Costin stood over Emily, told her to get up, called her a drama queen and then walked away without even touching Emily."

It also says, "Denver Health did not take a single X-ray or ultrasound of Emily."

"That's what the videos for, 'Oh look what we did right.' It's interesting they didn't show what they did wrong," said Garber.

About six minutes into the video, it's again what's missing, the family finds most shocking. The video highlights at least six different deputies by showing their photos, and claims they all went into the area where Emily was held the night she died.

The narrator says, "At least six different officers went into the north cluster on at least 25 occasions where Emily was held."

The video makes no mention of the four deputies disciplined after an investigation by the city's Independent Monitor in 2008 found they had falsified records to cover up their failure to make rounds on the night of Emily's death.

The video also makes Deputy Julie Kirkbride the hero by showing her image when the narrator says, "Just before 6 a.m., while checking on the female inmates, a deputy discovered Emily was not breathing right, her hand was cold and limp."

It makes no mention of the fact that Kirkbride was one of the two deputies suspended following the investigation by the Independent Monitor.

"She's a hero, she's a hero, she went back to make sure that Emily was fine. We all know that she wasn't fine," said Garber, reacting to the video praising Kirkbride's conduct.

Another deputy resigned, while the fourth deputy was issued a "cautionary letter" as the result of the finding that the deputy documented but failed to complete two rounds. None of these facts are addressed in the training video.

--Videos Cites 'Evidence' the Family Had Never Seen--

There's no disputing that Emily was drunk the night she got in the car crash, but the video goes even further, presenting evidence the family and their attorney had never seen.

The narrator says, "A more reliable blood test demonstrated that her blood-alcohol content was .233 -- almost three times the legal limit of .08."

"All a sudden they've got a police report that's never been shown to us before, where did that come from miraculously?" Rice asked.

"They accused Emily of being more intoxicated than she was. When we challenged in the litigation for them to present that evidence, they were unable to do so," Killmer further explained.

The video ends with the undersheriff at the time, William Lovingier, asking jail staff to notify a supervisor if they believe an inmate needs additional medical help.

--Emily's Parents Want Training Video Removed--

Garber and Rice believe the video does more harm than good, and question how it could even be used to train new deputies.

"They haven't mended a thing; they've only made things worse. We're here, again, just as bitter as we were when they took Emily's life," the father said.

Eight years have passed since Emily's death. Her death led to investigations and at the time, the largest settlement in Denver history.

"The culture of the law enforcement community in the City and County of Denver is so deeply embedded to cover up and deny any wrong doing," said Killmer.

Now, with a stream of new surveillance videos showing deputies brutalizing inmates and  violating procedures as taxpayers get stuck with even larger multi-million-dollar settlements, Emily's family now fears the culture they fought to fix, may never change.

"Look how long it's been and we still don't get it, it's still going on down there," Emily's father said. "They need to fix it."

"It's anger and heartbreak and it's also incredible disappointment, because we believed them," Emily's mother said.

--City Pulls Video for Training Purposes--  

7NEWS sat down with Denver's Executive Director of Safety Stephanie O'Malley to talk about the video. O'Malley agreed to reassess the video after Kovaleski started asking questions about it effectiveness and shared Emily's parent's reaction to it.

"We'll go back and review this video time and time again, make an assessment and determination based on, considerations not only on the substantive pieces of it, but the sensitivity, and I'm really sensitive to that issue," explained O'Malley. "This family lost a family member, what we don't want to do is to continue to have this family upset about some piece of material that we're offering to our deputies, that's going to elongate their pain."

Following her interview, O'Malley ordered the training video not to be shown for any training purposes while the city reevaluates its use related to Emily's Protocols. The video was also removed from the department's internal computer system so deputies are no longer able to view it. 

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