A highly controversial opinon is coming from a Civil Service Commission panel in the case of Officer Derrick Saunders.
Saunders was fired for what he did almost two years ago. He was off duty and driving his friend's sports car in Arapahoe County.
A Colorado State Patrol officer clocked Saunders going 143 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone - 88 miles per hour over the speed limit.
Saunders' blood alcohol level was 0.089, which was enough to classify Saunders as driving while ability impaired (D.W.A.I.)
Denver's Manager of Safety, Alex Martinez, fired Saunders last year.
The Denver Police Protective Association (PPA) argued the rules call for suspension for this kind of offense.
An independent Civil Service Commission panel of three hearing officers, all of them labor attorneys, agreed with the PPA and issued Saunders a 42 day suspension.
Denver Police Chief Robert White tells 9NEWS he disagrees with the panel's decision
"It compromises the integrity of the police officer. It really compromises and is a credibility issue for the many officers that are out there doing their job right and doing the right thing every single day. And it's a black eye that we just simply don't need," White said.
PPA Vice President Lt Vincent Gavito points to Denver's Discipline Matrix. For an offense of the level committed by Saunders, the matrix shows a suspension of 38-42 days is the mandated punishment.
"The discipline matrix clearly states that this offense was not a termination case and the officer should and is being held accountable by the civil service commission, according to the discipline matrix," Gavito said.
The fight is not over. Martinez will file an appeal, both sides will argue the case to the full civil service commission board, and from there it could go to the courts.
Statement from Manager of Safety Alex J. Martinez regarding the Civil Service Hearing Officers' Decision to overturn the dismissal of Officer Derrick Saunders:
"The opinion of hearing officers that driving 88 miles per hour over the speed limit while under the influence of alcohol does not warrant termination deprives the Manager of the authority to impose reasonable discipline and disrespects the efforts of the many honorable law-abiding Denver Police Officers to maintain high standards of professionalism. Respectfully, I believe this decision completely misinterprets the disciplinary code, undermines civilian authority to manage the police, and uses the concept of consistent discipline to confine the department to the distant past, when courts punished drunk driving with small fines. We would never hire someone as a law enforcement officer who had engaged in this behavior and should not be required by hearing officers to continue to employ someone as an officer with this proven criminal conduct. I will ask the Civil Service Commission to stay the order to reinstate Saunders and to reverse this misguided decision. In the meantime, I will not lower the standards we expect of law enforcement officers."
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