Denver police officer, Shawn Miller, has compiled over 40 complaints of excessive force and has cost the city at least $1 million in legal settlements. However, he has received little to no discipline or correction from his bosses, until Friday, Reuters is reporting.
Miller was placed on “non-line assignment” (that is, a desk job) while the department investigates his performance and comes up with a correction plan.
In the nine years since he’s been with the Denver Police Department, according to KMGH (Denver), Officer Miller has had at least 40 complaints leveled against him. At least 17 of those complaints involve excessive force, while others include using profanity and threatening arrests for no reason.
One such complaint against Miller is likely going to cost the city $860,000: the city has offered that sum in the cast of disabled veteran James Moore, whom Miller beat so badly that at one point, his heart stopped.
The City of Denver also paid out a $225,000 settlement in 2011 to a man who made an excessive force claim against Miller. In that case, that man said he was beaten by Miller after he (the victim) motioned to Miller to slow down. Miller took exception to being asked by the citizen to slow down, and allegedly beat the man.
In another case, in which the city has not yet offered a settlement, Miller allegedly browbeat, threatened, and ultimately arrested a disabled woman. The woman, Doreen Salazar, lives in public housing for the disabled and the elderly in a secure building where residents are under strict orders not to let anyone in. Miller apparently asked Ms. Salazar to let her in. When she declined, the enraged officer bullied her.
Denver Police Commander Matthew Murray confirms that the department is investigating the litany of complaints, settlements, and complete lack of corrective action concerning Miller.
“The warning signs were being flashed at us. The problem is what we did with them after we got the warning signs.”
What they did amounts to next to nothing. According to internal Denver Police Department documents, Miller was disciplined only once: a two-day, unpaid suspension for excessive force against an innocent woman in 2010.
The move to review Miller’s performance comes as the Denver Police Department faces criticism over an alleged pattern of excessive force within the department as a whole. Specifically, the city is reeling over the case of Jessie Hernandez, an unarmed teen girl who was shot dead in her car by Denver police officers.
Still, Murray cautions that excessive force complaints are difficult to prove, often because witnesses and victims won’t cooperate.
“If there is independent evidence, we will move forward if it’s appropriate.”