03/16/2011

Denver Chief recommends cop be fired for beating

The chief's recommendation, which has to do with an incident caught on video, has infuriated members of the police union

By Deb Stanley
The Denver Channel

DENVER — Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman has recommended the firing of an officer accused in a beating caught on video, infuriating members of the police union.

The video was first aired by CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski.

Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal recommended that the officers be fired, but Denver's then-Manager of Safety Ron Perea, only disciplined the officers for filing an inaccurate police report about the April 4, 2009, incident.

Last year, the Denver Police Department asked that the two officers involved to be suspended, however, according to Lt. Matt Murray, spokeman for the department, it was not Whitman who made the initial recommendation.

Murray explained to CALL7 Investigator Tony Kovaleski that someone in the department made the recommendation instead of Whitman.

Murray would not say who made the recommendation on behalf of the department, however, Union President Nick Rogers confirmed to 7NEWS that it was Deputy Chief of Operations Michael Battista.

Rogers told Kovaleski that it's irrelevant who made the recommendation because Whitman is aware and involved in all disciplinary recommendations from the department. Roger said just because Whitman's signature was not on the report does not mean the department recommendation did not have the chief's support.

Whitman is now recommending that one of the officers, Devin Sparks, be fired and the other be suspended for three days.

The incident stems from the arrest of two men outside a downtown nightclub in 2009. The video shows Michael DeHerrera, 24, standing on the corner talking on the phone for some time while police arrest his friend Shawn Johnson.

The tape then shows Sparks grabbing DeHerrera and taking him to the ground, but the video pans wide as officers subdue DeHerrera. After the camera pulls to a wide shot, officers can be seen hitting DeHerrera, but it is impossible to tell if DeHerrera is struggling.

The video zooms back in as police lead the bloodied suspects to a police car.

The city settled with DeHerrera and Johnson for a total of $15,500, and photographs in the case show injuries to DeHerrera face.

Denver police Cpl. Randy Murr was suspended for three days without pay for violating a provision requiring truthful and accurate information in police reports, and Sparks fined for the same violation, records show.

Originally published on The Denver Channel.

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