The 10-month unpaid suspension of a Denver police officer who shot and killed a 15-year-old developmentally disabled boy 1½ years ago has been overturned on appeal.
James Turney appealed his 10-month suspension for fatally shooting a 15-year-old boy.
Officer James Turney will receive back pay for almost the entire time he was suspended, Civil Service Commission hearing officer John Criswell said in his ruling Thursday. Instead, Criswell reduced Turney's suspension to five days off work and a one-day fine. That was due to a an incident that didn't involve the shooting.The controversial July 5, 2003, shooting began when police were called to a northeast Denver home on Thrill Place when family members reported that Paul Childs was threatening his mother with a knife. Officers said Childs refused to put the knife down when ordered.Several officers had their Taser guns drawn during the confrontation with Childs, but they never fired the weapons. Turney shot Childs four times, killing him.Turney was assigned to an administrative position after Manager of Safety Alvin LaCabe suspended him.LaCabe found that Turney made a number of errors at the scene but did not violate the department's use of force policy.In announcing the suspension, LaCabe said Turney should have shut the security screen door in front of the home and backed away, once he determined that there was no one else inside the home. LaCabe said the barrier between Childs and everyone else could have been increased without exposing the officers to harm by simply closing the security door.LaCabe said that the suspension also covered violations that stemmed from an alleged death threat Turney made to his former mother-in-law the day before the Childs shooting.On Thursday, Criswell ruled that Turney's only violations were making the threatening telephone call to his former mother-in-law and excessive use of his cell phone while he was on duty.Turney, who has been a Denver police officer since 1998, appealed his suspension to the city's Civil Service Commission. His lawyers argued the discipline was excessive and unjustified, especially since there were no policy violations.Many Denver police officers were angry about the suspension and said they believed he acted appropriately in the manner of which he was trained.Turney was not allowed to return to street duty after his suspension. While he was not paid for 10 months, fellow officers established a fund to support him, his child and his wife, who is also a police officer.Colleagues said they supported Turney's action 100 percent and accused city leaders of caving in to public pressure. Fellow officers established a fund to support him during the unpaid suspension. He has a child and wife, who is also a police officer.Ten months without pay is the most severe penalty any Denver officer has received in connection with a shooting in the past decade.