On September 11, 2012, Anthony Waller stood before Judge Doris Burd in a Denver courtroom to hear and discuss his charges. His attire included handcuffs, shackles (leg irons), a belly chain and a lock box over his hands. In the video (shown above), Judge Burd explains the charges and Mr. Waller politely responds with a “Yes, Ma’am,” and an objection. At this moment, for no apparent reason at all, the deputy standing behind Mr. Waller attacks him, slams his head against a window, and drags him into the hallway where the assault continues. In a rare move, the judge later filed a complaint against the deputy, who happened to be the son of a previous head of the sheriff department. The assaulting deputy got a 30-day suspension from duty- after a year passed. Anthony Waller filed a 5 million dollar civil rights lawsuit in federal court.
Last year, a Denver jury awarded a record $4.65 M to the family of a homeless street preacher named Marvin Booker, who was restrained, repeatedly shocked and killed in the Denver jail waiting area. To include attorney fees and expenses, Denver will pay 6 million in the Marvin Booker jail death settlement.
These are only two examples in a long list of excessive force incidents involving the Denver Sheriff’s Department and inmates in the jail. Following litigation that cost the city more than $9 million in settlements and legal fees, Denver’s mayor hired Hillard Heintze, an independent consulting firm to find out why there were so many excessive-use-use-of-force incidents.
Behind the Headlines with DPTV’s Molly Hughes and Noelle Phillips discusses the 300-page report (pdf) Hilliard Heintze released last month containing 14 major findings and 277 recommendations to fix problems at the Denver County jail:
The report recommends what amounts to a change of culture and a systemic overhaul of what appears to be, quite simply, a ‘good ole boy’ network of deputies who are accountable only to themselves or their own kinfolks.