AURORA - 9Wants to Know found the Aurora Police Department follows an "unwritten practice" of not citing fellow officers during minor crashes while civilians will likely get a ticket under similar circumstances.
The Aurora Police Department acknowledged its practice when 9Wants to Know began asking questions about a crash involving Shawnee Gibson and an undercover Denver police detective.
"I think it's pretty absurd," Gibson told 9Wants to Know after learning the officer who crashed into her car didn't receive a ticket. "I don't think that any officer is above the law."
Denver Detective Gilberto Lucio was not cited for "careless driving," according to an Aurora police report after he rear-ended Gibson's Mustang.
POLL: Is Aurora PD's 'unwritten policy' fair?
The crash happened in the city of Aurora at the corner of Quentin and Colfax on Sep. 3. Lucio was driving an unmarked Nissan Titan which was owned by the City of Denver.
Lucio was not pursuing a suspect and was not responding to an emergency.
"I couldn't move my head. I couldn't move anything," said Gibson while speaking of her neck pain. "I felt like somebody just took a baseball bat and hit me in the back."
Aurora Police Spokesperson Cassidee Carlson acknowledged Lucio was at fault in the crash but didn't receive a citation because he was an on-duty officer.
"This officer was clearly at fault," Carlson said.
Carlson said the department follows an "unwritten practice" of not citing fellow on-duty officers in minor crashes because it's expected they will naturally get distracted as they multitask in their units. Carlson said officers will likely be reprimanded by their home agency regardless of a citation.
"Their cars become their offices. They spend thousands of hours every year behind the wheel," Carlson said. "They have computers in their cars. They have to operate lights and sirens. So we understand all that multitasking. Officers will be in an accident. That's the reality of it."
Carlson admitted if the roles were reversed, Gibson would have likely received a citation because civilians don't receive the same punishment at work compared to officers.
"She probably would get issued a ticket because there are not alternative sanctions for private citizens," Carlson said. "You won't get days off of work, you won't get letters in your personnel file at work. But if you're a police officer, and if [an accident] happened to you while you're on duty, that will happen to you. "
While professional drivers like taxi drivers and bus drivers may disagree with Carlson's generalization of what happens to private citizens at their jobs, 9Wants to Know as able to identify several Denver area law enforcement agencies that will cite officers in minor crashes in their jurisdictions, regardless if they're on duty.
Those agencies include the Arapahoe and Douglas County Sheriff's Departments, Colorado State Patrol, and police departments in Lakewood, Westminster, Wheat Ridge and Thornton.
A spokesperson for Denver Police told 9Wants to Know officers will not cite another fellow on-duty officer on scene, but would hand the case over to a city attorney to decide if charges should be filed.
"Detective Lucio's case is currently under review and a disciplinary decision is forthcoming pending the conclusion of the investigation," Denver police spokesperson John White said in a written statement. "Once a decision is made, the finding will be made available to the public if requested."
It's unknown what's on Lucio's department record, but for Denver police officers, being at fault for careless driving could result in a written reprimand. Repeated at-fault crashes on an officer's record could result in suspension.
9News Legal Analyst Scott Robinson said Aurora's "unwritten practice" is not legally justified.
"I have never heard of another jurisdiction choosing not to cite another officer from another jurisdiction when there's an accident involving injury. It's inexcusable and there's no justification in the law," Robinson said.
Carlson stressed in serious crashes resulting in serious injury or death, it's likely an officer will be cited.
She also said an officer's home agency will always be notified of any crash.
"We feel those agencies will hold those officers accountable," Carlson said.
Gibson showed 9Wants to Know a $3,000 medical bill she received from the hospital after she was transported from the scene of the crash by ambulance. She plans to file a claim against the City of Denver to try and get damages paid for. Gibson claims she is suffering with repeated headaches and neck pain since the crash.
"I think [police] should be cited just like I would if I was the one that caused the accident," Gibson said.
Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jeremy Jojola? Call him at 303-871-1425 or e-mail him
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