Denver's Independent Monitor calls out Sheriff's Department for inaccurate, misleading reports

OIM's 2017 report also shows complaints are up

DENVER -- Denver's watchdog is raising concerns about sheriff's deputies filing inaccurate or misleading reports, at the same time that data shows complaints are up against police and the sheriff's department.

Independent Monitor Nick Mitchell released his annual report for 2017 which found complaints against Denver Police officers increased by six percent when compared to last year.

Community complaints against the sheriff's department were up even higher, with an increase of 167 percent compared to 2016.

"If that's what's happening then somebody needs to step in and do something about it. That's a huge increase," CU Denver criminologist professor Mary Dodge said.  

Mitchell said he believes the spike reflects the change in the Denver Sheriff Department's complaint recording practices.

"Although there was an increase in the number of complaints, there was a decrease in the number of sustained complaints," Jess Vigil, the Denver Deputy Director of Safety, told Denver7.

Mitchell also criticized the department for having too many inaccurate or misleading reports filed by deputies. The report found nine deputies were disciplined for it in 2017, and referred to one incident as "A Case of Concern."

The incident happened on June 7, 2017, the report states, after an inmate filed a grievance against a deputy. He retaliated by filing a false report that could have resulted in the inmate being place in solitary confinement.  

The deputy involved in the incident claimed the inmate "with the forward motion of the arm threw a pencil toward me [the deputy]" hitting the deputy in the chest or shoulder.

Mitchell points to jailhouse video he said proves the inmate lied about what he wrote in the report.  

Denver7 reviewed the video evidence, which shows two different angles inside the Denver Jail.

Both videos show the inmate returning the pencil to the deputy's desk before walking away. The inmate sets the pencil on the desk and is never seen throwing it at the deputy.

Mitchell also disagrees with the department of safety's decision to reprimand the deputy instead of suspending him for his actions.

"The deputy was performing another task when the inmate approached and tossed the pencil onto his desk, and it’s conceivable that the deputy misperceived the incident and thought the pencil was thrown at him," Vigil said. "When he was shown the video, the deputy didn’t lie about the incident and acknowledged that he had misperceived the matter. The deputy was in fact disciplined for writing an inaccurate report; however, we could not prove that he lied or that he knowingly, intentionally, or willfully wrote a misleading report. It would have been wrong and unjust to fire him or suspend him without pay, given these facts."

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