Videos Show Denver Sheriffs Slapping, Choking, Punching, and Tasing Prisoners

George Lavender

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Denver’s jail abuse scandal took another turn on Wednesday after a former prisoner filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and two sheriff deputies. Anthony Waller suffered a broken nose and teeth after being thrown against a window, the Denver Post reports.

Anthony Waller’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, seeks $5 million in damages and an injunction that would allow the courts to supervise operations of the Denver jails.

For decades the Defendant the City and County of Denver has been incapable of stopping the use of excessive force by its law enforcement,” the lawsuit says. The only remedy is for outside intervention to address the systemic, culturally ingrained use of excessive force by Denver law enforcement.” Continue reading…

The incident which took place in September 2012, was captured by a court video camera. The deputy involved was suspended for 40 days.

The video is one of several showing sheriff’s deputies choking, hitting, kicking, and tasing prisoners.

On Monday, Mayor Michael Hancock called for an outside review of the Denver Sheriff Department, following multiple allegations of abuse inside the city’s jails.

Hancock announced the plan to bring an outside look at the agency during an interview with Colorado Public Radio.

It would be beneficial to get some external eyes,” Hancock said on Colorado Matters.

Hancock’s call comes a week after Gary Wilson stepped down as sheriff amid a growing number of abuse cases. Continue reading..

Hancock said he had been incensed” by the abuse allegations. “”It’s not just one case we’ve been following up on. There’s been a string of incidents. Enough is enough.”

As the Colorado Independent reports, one video shows a prisoner on suicide watch being tased, apparently without provocation.

Under observation by sheriff’s officials, Isaiah Moreno paced the tiny cell, banged his head against the wall, paced some more, banged his head more, and so on.

Meantime, footage from another video camera shows a team of sheriff’s officials gathering outside his door with equipment to restrain him – presumably to prevent him from hurting himself and medicate him. They stood outside watching for several minutes as Moreno continued to slam his head into the cinder blocks. At one point, he touched his forehead to assess the extent of the bruises and cuts.

At one point, after an officer had asked him to stop hitting his head and Moreno responded, I don’t give a fuck. No. Fuck you.” Moreno sat on the concrete bench that serves as a bed. Eight officers then entered the cell – two with taser guns pointed at him, even though he posed no visible sign of threat. Two of the officers tasered him with electroshocks before he slumped onto the floor. Officers strapped him into a restraint chair and then left him alone in the cell. Continue reading…

The sheriff’s internal affairs bureau determined that the officer who ordered the deputies to tase Moreno had violated the city’s policies on use of force.

An investigation by the city’s independent monitor, Nicholas Mitchell, into the internal affairs bureau found that the Denver Sheriff Department had failed to investigate dozens of cases in which excessive force was alleged, despite being required to do so. 

Internal affairs units have the specialized expertise and independence required to investigate allegations of serious officer misconduct, such as alleged excessive force or sexual misconduct,” Mitchell told The Denver Post. This is a very well-established national best practice.”

Of 861 inmate complaints filed between January 2011 and June 30, 2013, 54 were serious grievances” that included allegations of excessive force, sexual misconduct and bias, Mitchell wrote.

But the department’s internal affairs bureau investigated just nine of those cases. Inmate grievances triggered just three of those investigations. The other six investigations launched only after inmates filed separate complaints with internal affairs or other agencies, such as Mitchell’s office. Continue reading..

Mitchell’s investigation was sparked by a lawsuit brought by a former prisoner, Jamal Hunter, who alleged that he was beaten by other prisoners while in jail, with the knowledge and support of guards and that he was assaulted by deputies. A US District Judge John Kane unsealed the internal affairs records in that case, saying that the investigation smacks of a scam” and calling for federal prosecutors to investigate. 

This week Denver City Council gave initial approval to a multi-million dollar settlement in Hunter’s case. 

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George Lavender is an award-winning radio and print journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.
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