WESTMINSTER, Colo. – Four years ago, Elizabeth Steadman walked into the Westminster Police Department trying to get help, saying she was caught in a potentially dangerous web of domestic violence. Officers opened an investigation but instead of justice, Steadman ended up with two free movie tickets.
The tickets were meant to make up for a major mistake on the department’s part that led to charges not being filed against her accused attacker. Steadman was shocked and to this day, Westminster’s chief of police refuses to answer questions or explain how he’ll make sure that kind of mistake doesn’t happen again.
’They didn’t protect and they didn’t serve’
When Steadman went to the police in Dec. 2012, she told them she’d been attacked by her partner and feared for her life.
“I stated ‘I am trying to evade a domestic violence situation. I am currently in fear of my life.’ I was being threatened with my brake lines being cut. I was threatened with another beating. I was threatened with my finding my dog dead in my car,” Steadman said.
A police report shows an officer filled out an arrest warrant affidavit and forwarded it to the Adams County District Attorney for review. The officer told Steadman he would let her know when the DA made a decision, but a supervisor made a mistake and closed the case instead.
Steadman didn’t find out until 2015, when she asked for an update on her case. By then, the statute of limitations had expired and police told Steadman they wouldn’t be able to press charges. Police later met with Steadman to explain what happened and on the way out of that meeting, a commander offered Steadman two movie tickets, telling her “You deserve a day to yourself,” Steadman said.
“They take an oath to protect and serve,” Denver7 Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski asked Steadman. “Did that happen here?”
“They didn’t protect and they didn’t serve at all,” Steadman replied.
Answers and accountability
Steadman filed a complaint against the police department, and last year, a state subcommittee found the department did not comply with the Colorado Victim Rights Act when handling Steadman’s case.
While the VRA subcommittee found that the department violated the Act, it also found the agency has procedures in place to prevent similar failures in the future. The department also reprimanded the officers involved.
But Steadman isn’t satisfied. What she wants is simple--answers and accountability. Denver7 Investigates has made multiple requests to get her questions answered but Chief Tim Carlson repeatedly declined.
Denver7 continued to press the issue and Kovaleski met Chief Carlson before a recent city council meeting. Again, he refused to discuss the situation and walked away.
“You’re dodging accountability, Chief. That’s what it looks like,” Kovaleski said.
“I am not dodging accountability,” Carlson responded before walking away.
Carlson admitted it’s a serious situation, but he won’t sit down with Denver7 to discuss it. Carlson’s staff said the only way he would do an interview is if he can see a list of detailed questions ahead of time.