Suspension upheld in Denver excessive force case
Hearing officer: “Difficult to determine if reform is likely.”
The Denver sheriff’s deputy who slammed a prisoner into a courtroom wall without provocation has lost his appeal of his 30-day suspension.
A ruling released Tuesday by Denver’s Career Service Board upholds the city’s disciplinary action against Brady Lovingier, son of the former longtime head of the sheriffs department, Bill Lovingier.
Brady Lovingier’s September 11, 2012 attack against prisoner Anthony Waller was caught on videotape, which was first published by The Colorado Independent and then went viral nationally and internationally. It shows Waller being escorted by sheriff’s deputies into a courtroom shackled in handcuffs, leg irons, a belly chain and black box — the highest level of restraint short of a straitjacket or locking someone into a wheelchair.
Waller had been taken into custody in connection with the beating of a woman in a Colfax motel. He stood quiet at the podium while Judge Doris Burd advised him of his rights. Then he asked the judge why he was in jail without having been arrested.
Just as Judge Burd started answering Waller’s question, Lovingier suddenly grabbed Waller by the belly chain, yanked him and spun him around, then slammed him into a large glass window. Waller collapsed onto the ground.
“Get on your feet,” Lovingier yelled. “Don’t turn on me. Get on your feet. Get on your feet.”
Lovingier, who is white, called Waller, who is black, “boy” during the attack.
A year and a half after his attack, Waller was tried this week in connection with the motel case. Charges of felony menacing and false imprisonment were dismissed. A jury today found him not guilty of second-degree kidnapping and guilty of misdemeanor assault. Because of time served, he likely will be freed from the custody of the department that long has been criticized for ignoring excessive force cases.
Denver Sheriffs waited a year to discipline Lovingier, who investigators found had “no legitimate reason” for the attack. Investigators also dismissed his long series of statements to internal affairs as “unreasonable” and not factual. (Find examples in the excerpts posed here.)
Despite the department’s findings about Lovingier’s misuse of force and credibility, it assigned him to train other officers on how to handle volatile situations and how to write official reports about use-of-force incidents. Sheriff Gary Wilson said he didn’t know that Lovingier was teaching those in-service trainings until asked by The Independent. He then removed him from those duties.
For the kind of attack that likely would have landed a civilian in prison, Lovingier was disciplined with a 30-day suspension. He appealed that suspension at a hearing in February during which he and several colleagues testified that Waller tripped over his leg irons and fell into the window rather than having been slammed against it by Lovingier.
Career Service Hearing Office Bruce Plotkin didn’t buy their story.
“For reasons stated immediately above, Lovingier used inappropriate force in dealing with inmate Waller. The Agency thus proved Lovingier broke this rule by a preponderance of the evidence,” he wrote.
It is custom in Career Service Board decisions for the hearing officer to determine “the likelihood of reform” for an officer who has been found guilty of misconduct.
Plotkin wrote: “Lovingier strongly denied any wrongdoing whatsoever throughout the investigation and throughout (the) hearing. It is therefore difficult to determine if reform is likely.”
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