Panel decides fired officer should get job back

10:09 PM, Feb 14, 2012   |    comments
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A panel of three Hearing Officers made the ruling on Estrada's job on Tuesday. The city will appeal the ruling to the Civil Service Commission.

Estrada, hired by Denver Police in 2000, was assigned to the traffic-accident investigations team in December 2010, when Laura Gorham, then 27, was hit as she crossed a street in the Stapleton neighborhood. Police have so far not made an arrest in the case.

When contacted, Laurie Sherlock - whose maiden name was Gorham - says she had nothing to say about the ruling.

According to the commission's report, Estrada repeatedly lied about not investigating a tip on a potential car involved.

Later investigation ruled the car out, but based on the department's rules, Estrada's lies did not influence the outcome of the case.

"Detective Estrada is very lucky, because of the fortuitous happenstance that the vehicle turned out not to be involved in the hit-and-run, he gets to be reinstated and that's because what he lied about turned out not to be material to that investigation," 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson said.

"The PPA is pleased that the [panel] has rendered a just and fair decision based on the facts of the case," the Denver Police Protection association said.

Denver Manager of Safety Alex J. Martinez released a statement on Estrada's reinstatement:

"Although the Office of the Manager of Safety respects the authority of the Civil Service Hearing Officers, we disagree with their ruling in the Estrada case and have asked the City Attorney's Office to appeal the decision. Once again, the hearing officers have misunderstood the nature of deceptive conduct; in this case, the concept of materiality. In this office's view, the conduct was material even if it would not have changed the outcome of the investigation. We do not tolerate deceptive conduct and we will continue to impose appropriate discipline."

If the headline sounds familiar, it is because this isn't the first time 9NEWS has reported on a fired Denver police officer being reinstated.

When Estrada gets his job back, that will mean seven of the 10 Denver Police officers fired in the past year have been reinstated.

"The public perception is that being terminated by the Denver Police Department is not final, because so many officers have been reinstated, during their civil service appeals," Robinson said.

"The recent interim manager of safety was obviously quick to fire police officers, which is the easy part of the job. There were several cases where the city wasn't able to prove the most serious charges during the hearing stage," Estrada's attorney, Doug Jewell, said.

The city attorney's office is appealing several of the cases, now including Estrada's.

The panel did find that the 16-day suspension without pay for Estrada was appropriate, as well as a fine equal to two-days of pay.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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