Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022 (Updated Friday, Dec. 9)
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Boulder Police Department officials on Tuesday released the names of five officers who failed to investigate a ‘large number’ of cases. All five officers were found to have violated department rules, a case of misconduct that prompted the resignation of a member of the city’s civilian Police Oversight Panel.
Detective Kwame Williams was named as the detective who did not investigate or “fully” investigate open cases “between 2019 and the present,” according to a city press release. Williams was suspended five days without pay.
(Author’s note: The press release did not identify Williams as the detective with open cases. Notes from the Oversight Panel listed officers by number, 1-5, along with their eventual discipline. Boulder Beat used this information to match named officers with their respective disciplinary actions.)
Commander Thomas Trujillo was transferred to another department and given a three-day suspension; Sergeant Brannon Winn was suspended for one day without pay. A one-year “letter of reprimand” was written for Commander Barry Hartkopp, who will receive additional training. Sergeant David Spraggs “retired by resignation.”
In the press release, Police Chief Maris Herold said Williams “apparently became overwhelmed” by his caseload. The department limited active caseloads to 20 per officer and mandated reviews of open cases every 30 days as a result of the incident.
BPD itself discovered the open cases, during a review of its case management system. The matter was then referred to the Oversight Panel and BPD’s Professional Standards Unit.
The Oversight Panel recommended that all five officers be terminated. In response to questions, a city spokesperson reiterated that Herold must also consider the department’s disciplinary matrix, the police union contract and state law when determining disciplinary actions.
“Chief Herold carefully reviewed the case, consulted the department’s disciplinary matrix and considered the recommendations of police leadership, the Police Independent Monitor and the Police Oversight Panel,” Tuesday’s press release reiterated.
Suspensions of any length are considered serious disciplinary action, according to the union contract.
“I regret that this happened and consider it a serious situation,” Herold was quoted as saying in the release. “Our department understands the tremendous responsibility it has to investigate reported crimes diligently and in a timely manner. This is a sacred trust our community has placed in us.
“We take this responsibility seriously.”
Still unclear is how many open cases Williams had — presentation to the Police Oversight Panel simply said it was “a large number” — and what types of crimes he was supposed to be investigating. Just last year, Williams was nominated for the Beth Haynes Award, honoring law enforcement, the Longmont Leader reported.
Herold, in response to questions at Thursday’s city council meeting, said “we started with 46 investigations, we’ve narrowed that down to a much smaller number,” through an audit. More details may be released next week, Herold said.
“I can promise the community we will be transparent with this data as soon as we are comfortable and I have reviewed everything, along with the DA,” she said.
The Boulder County District Attorney’s office is conducting its own audit of the affected cases, according to the city’s press release. An open records request for materials related to review of the case, 004, has twice been denied while the discipline is being appealed.
Tuesday’s press release concluded by saying that “the city will not be conducting additional media interviews about this situation at this time.”
Martha Wilson, a founding member of the Police Oversight Panel, resigned last month after the case was reviewed and eventual discipline did not reflect the panel’s findings or feelings. She was particular disturbed by the city’s failure to release how many cases had not been investigated. Panelists were likewise barred from disclosing that information, she said.
City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, also during Thursday’s meeting, said the city attorney’s office was “thinking about … immediate tweaks” to city law that will “make sure the panel has the ability to speak openly about the authority they have under their purview.”
Rivera-Vandermyde said those changes could come to city council “pretty quickly.” She also acknowledged the panel’s interest in long-term changes to the A piece of municipal (city-level) legislation. that created the oversight panel, and said the city planned to work with them and the community on that as well.
“There will be a Part 2, perhaps, where we have even more conversation with community and will be bringing something to council in the coming months.”
— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle
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