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Big money paid to Colorado officers to sit at home while under investigation for misconduct

Posted: 4:34 PM, May 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-22 04:36:14Z
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Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com . See more 360 stories here .

DENVER – A Contact7 investigation shows some area law enforcement agencies have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to officers and deputies to sit at home while they are under investigation for misconduct.

Over the past five years, Lakewood paid a total of $47,395.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office paid $149,596.

The city of Aurora paid police officers $344,995.

One Aurora officer was on leave over three calendar years and was paid $109,908.30. Other officers raked in $39,298; $28,624 and $18,265, respectively.

The city of Denver provided two years of data showing deputies, officers and firefighters who were under investigation were paid $512,576.99 while sitting at home and not working.

A Denver Sheriff’s Department deputy under two investigations at the same time was paid $76,393.

Denver7 is taking a 360 look at whether law enforcement should be paid to sit at home during a lengthy investigation. Here are three perspectives.

Police union president Sgt. Mark Sears

"They should be afforded the same right as everybody else has," Aurora Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Mark Sears said.

His view is that making an officer go without pay during an investigation isn't right.

"Is it really fair to just have an accusation against somebody? Then we have to remember that officer still has a mortgage. They still have bills. They still have families. They still have a livelihood. That is what could be taken away from them," he said.

After allegations swirled that Aurora police officer Roland Albert stole money from a police non-profit , he was put on paid leave on Aug. 17, 2018, the city previously told Denver7.

Investigators claimed they had evidence showing the theft.

Albert resigned as the organization's treasurer but held on to his job and his paycheck for four more months. His case is still proceeding through the court system.

Civil rights attorney David Lane

Well-known civil right lawyer David Lane's viewpoint is that extended paid leave isn't right when there is probable cause.

"If they have probable cause to believe that you have committed a serious violation, you shouldn't get paid leave," Lane said.

He says he believes that if an officer does get money and is later found guilty or the investigation shows misconduct, the money should be paid back.

"There should be some attempt made to maybe recoup some of the money," Lane said.

Lane also thinks an internal affairs investigation can happen before any criminal trial. Courts have determined, under something called “Garrity Rights” that what a public employee tells internal affairs, for example, cannot be used against an officer in court.

Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz

"An officer who is accused of a crime has the same rights as every citizen in our country," said Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz, who used to lead Seattle's police department.

“My perspective, number one, is to try to get the investigation done as quickly as possible," he said.

But he also says rushing an investigation could block justice. It can take weeks or months to get phone records and bank records, he says.

Allegations aren't always true. Sometimes an officer is suspected of wrongdoing and later cleared.

That’s what happened to the Denver deputy paid more than $76,393 dollars to sit at home.

The internal affairs investigation later found no policy violations or misconduct and the district attorney dropped the charges, according to a spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Safety.

Metz says in his view a person's Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves means he shouldn't force an officer to talk for an internal affairs investigation before a criminal case is done.