The Civil Service Commission on Friday reinstated two Denver police officers who were fired after a manager ruled they used improper force and lied about a 2009 disturbance where a surveillance video captured them using batons to shove women to the ground and pepper spraying them.
An attorney for four of the women expressed outrage that Kevin Devine and Ricky Nixon were returning to police duty.
"Officers Nixon and Devine endangered the lives of our clients," attorney Siddhartha Rathod told 7NEWS.
"Denver's custom, policy and practice of retaining officers who routinely use excessive force endangers the lives of all Coloradoans. Denver has again demonstrated its inability to fire its bad apples," said Rathod, adding that city taxpayers will continue to pay millions of dollars in brutality lawsuit settlements.
Officers Accused Of Inappropriate Force, Lying
Nixon and Devine were fired in April 2011 by then-Manager of Safety Charles Garcia, who decided the officers had used inappropriate force and then lied in their reports about what happened on the night of July 12, 2009, outside the Denver Diner.
The chaotic scene was caught by one of the city's surveillance cameras, known as HALO cameras.
Nixon was working off-duty in his police uniform as security for the diner that night, according to a police report. Devine was on duty and arrived to assist Nixon with the disturbance involving several women who were dressed in skirts and high heels.
The video, obtained by 7NEWS, showed an officer pulling a woman by her arm from the diner entrance onto the sidewalk.
As another woman in a long, flowing dress tried to intervene, the video showed the officer using his police baton to shove her to the ground with such force her feet flew up in the air.
That woman, Kelly Boren, 27, of Lone Tree, told 7NEWS she and some friends had just arrived at the diner in a pedicab and were not involved in whatever disturbance that drew police.
Woman: 'Officers Mistreated Us Completely'
Boren said they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The officers mistreated us completely." She said a female friend was hospitalized by injuries she received that night.
She identified Devine, who was chomping on a cigar in the video, as the officer who shoved her to the ground.
Hearing Panel Overturns Officers' Terminations
But the commission's three-member hearing panel overturned the firing of Devine, saying the evidence failed to sustain allegations that the officer used inappropriate force or that he committed a "deceptive act" by lying about his actions. The hearing officers sustained a finding that Devine failed in his "responsibility to serve the public," but reduced his fine of three-days pay to one day.
Otherwise, Devine was reinstated to his job with all back pay, seniority and other benefits from the date of termination, the panel's order said.
As for Nixon, the panel overturned the safety manager's decision that he had committed deceptive acts. But the hearing officers sustained a finding that Nixon had used inappropriate force and discourtesy and upheld his 35-day suspension without pay for those violations.
Otherwise, Nixon was reinstated to his job with all back pay, seniority and other benefits from the date of termination.
Citizens Group 'Outraged' By Officers' Reinstatement
A citizens group condemned the officers' reinstatement.
"We are outraged that the three hearing officers, Susan Ekhardt, Lawrence Lef (and) Rhonda Rhodes, insist on putting violent officers back on the street as they did in the Michael Deherrera case," Mu Son Chi, director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition, said in a statement.
"We urge the city attorney to appeal this decision and we will be taking action to demand police accountability and safety for our communities from violent police officers," she added.
Safety Manager Will Ponder Possible Appeal
Denver Manager of Safety Alex J. Martinez said he will review the panel's decision.
"The Manager of Safetys office is committed to fair and impartial decision making based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case," Martinez said in a statement. "While I respect the authority of the Civil Service Commission hearing officers, as with every case where the disciplinary decision is overturned, I will review the decision and consult with the city attorneys office to decide if it is appropriate to pursue an appeal."
Diner Incident Not Officer's First Brutality Complaint
The diner clash was not the first time Nixon was accused of police brutality.
Six months earlier, Nixon and two other officers were accused of beating an African American college student until he was unconscious following a traffic stop, according to a federal lawsuit.
The lawsuit accused Nixon and the other officers of stopping 19-year-old Alexander Landau after midnight on Jan. 15, 2009, for making an illegal turn, then calling him the N-word and beating his face and head with their fists, a radio and a flashlight until he was unconscious.
Landau suffered brain injuries and trauma.
Last year, the city of Denver paid Landau a $795,000 settlement.
Beating Victim Calls Ruling 'A Joke'
Landau called the hearing panel's decision "a joke."
"This shows that it is okay to lie and beat people up," Landau said. "We need to get rid of these hearing officers and the whole system needs to be revamped. The only way to do this is to get the Department of Justice to investigate."
A photograph taken of 19-year-old Alexander Landau soon after he said three Denver officers beat him unconscious during a traffic stop.
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