DENVER — Contact7 Investigates has reviewed newly released video from body cameras and 911 calls from a crash last September involving Denver Police Chief Robert White.
Chief White was a victim in a hit and run crash near the Denver-Aurora border.
His actions before and after the incident led to a city investigation and forced him to apologize to his department.
The city investigation centered on the allegation Chief White violated department policy by “chasing” the driver responsible for the hit and run incident. The crash happened in the pre-dawn hours while Chief White was off duty and driving his police vehicle.
Audio from body-camera footage
During the body camera video provided by Denver Police through an open records request, Chief White is heard several times using the word “chase” as he described his actions following his police vehicle being hit by the driver that was leaving the location of the crash.
Chief Robert White:
“When I was hit, I chased the guy here…”
“Ya I chased him over here… and he hit this car right here…
“He ran the stop sign when he hit me… so I chased his ass and then in the chase.. he struck this guy…”
Audio from 911 calls
Contact7 Investigates also reviewed 911 calls made by Chief White the morning of the crash and they included:
Chief Robert White:
“We are in Aurora, but it started in Denver... he hit me and I chased him…”
“…it started in Denver... I chased him into Aurora… he hit another car into Aurora…”
The recently released body camera video taken by Aurora police officers also included a moment that required Chief White to apologize to his command staff and officers after word leaked that he was highly critical of the response time of his Denver police officers.
The video shows Chief White making the following statement:
“I see you guys responded a lot f**king quicker than my guys! (laughter) Maybe I need to do a lateral transfer... try to get you guys to transfer over.... (laughter)”
Following the release of the body-camera video, the Denver Police Protective Association, one of the city’s police unions, released the following statement:
The PPA is very disappointed in our chief’s unprofessional actions which reflect poorly on the rank and file officers who are held to a much higher standard than the Mayor held Chief White to. Chasing any suspect whether your lights and siren are on, or you are chasing in an unmarked vehicle is a clear violation of the chase policy. Any other Denver Police officer would have received substantial discipline for the same actions.
Responding to the release of the body camera video and 911 calls, Chief White also provided a statement to Contact7 Investigates.
After being the victim of a hit-and-run crash in Aurora, I made a statement to Aurora officers, in an attempt at humor, that may have offended some Denver Police officers and I apologized to them. I am by no means perfect, I am human. I acknowledge that I used inappropriate language and a poor choice of the word ‘chase’ when to describe to responding officers my attempt to locate the car that hit me. The evidence clearly demonstrates there was no pursuit and I was appropriately cleared of any wrongdoing."
Last month, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced the city had concluded its investigation into Chief White’s response and actions the morning of the crash.
The city’s investigation revealed that White said he made a U-turn and drove after the hit-and-run driver to try to get his license plate. The hit-and-run driver later crashed into another vehicle.
White made statements after the crash that he “chased” the hit-and-run driver, but the mayor’s administrative review found “those statements appear to be a semantic use of the term and not a literal definition of his actions, or the same use of ‘pursuit’ as defined in department policy.”
The review found that White likely did not activate his lights and sirens and likely was not able to turn around quickly enough for the other driver to be aware White was following him.
“It cannot be said that the driver sped up or drove in a more dangerous manner due to a ‘pursuit,’” Hancock’s office wrote in its statement.
White later apologized for making a joke at the scene to Aurora police that sources told Denver7 Investigates may have disparaged his own department's response to the scene.
“He did not choose his words wisely, but he didn’t violate any department policies. Further, I am disappointed that he made a joke about the police officers that was in poor taste. He was upfront about these comments to me and the entire department, and I don’t believe his intent was malicious,” Hancock wrote in a statement.
The review also indicated White may have been disoriented after the crash.