Chief of Denver’s jail under investigation for special treatment afforded criminally charged sheriff’s captain

Chief of Denver’s jail under investigation for special treatment afforded criminally charged sheriff’s captain

FRANK Gale, chief of Denver’s downtown detention center, is under investigation for preferential treatment given to a top Sheriff’s Department official arrested Sunday on a domestic violence charge.

The probe marks yet another controversy plaguing Denver’s Sheriff’s Department. The case is being investigated by Denver police.

Sheriff Department Captain Sonya Gillespie – ex-wife of Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson – was taken into sheriff custody after an altercation with her fiancé at her home in Green Valley Ranch. Her colleagues immediately circled the wagons, as shown in a memo obtained by The Independent.

Sheriff Captain Deric Wynn notified Wilson of the arrest shortly after it was carried out. Wilson then called Gale and then notified city safety manager Stephanie O’Malley. Wilson also contacted Nicholas Mitchell, the city’s independent safety monitor, to disclose his past relationship with Gillespie.

On Sunday evening, Wilson wrote a memo saying he wouldn’t be involved in decision-making about the case.

It’s unclear who, then, was making decisions to treat Gillespie differently than the thousands of other arrestees the sheriff department deals with annually.

Members of the department say a videotape shows Chief Gale — who served as the sheriff’s spokesman and long has been the public face of the department  — accompanying Gillespie to a court hearing on Monday, then escorting her to a department-issued car, and then driving away with Gillespie as his passenger.

Gale would not return inquires about whether he was acting under orders or by his own volition.

A complaint against Gale has been filed by sheriff’s Captain Jodi Blair regarding “Captain Gillespie’s detention and release,” the Safety Department confirmed this morning. City officials would not say what, if any, role Blair herself had in shepherding Gillespie, her colleague, through the jail and releasing her.

Neither Gale, the sheriff office, the safety department nor Mayor Michael Hancock’s office would return phone calls about the case, even though all three offices have been in discussion since the arrest over how, if at all, to discuss it publicly.

In this case, as in previous sheriff department misconduct cases, Hancock administration officials cite the internal affairs investigation as reason for refusing to comment.

“As such, it is premature for our department to respond to your questions, and imperative that we allow that process to run its course,” safety department spokeswoman Daelene Mix emailed The Independent. 

Mitchell also wouldn’t speak about the case that Sheriff Wilson consulted him about it shortly after his ex-wife’s arrest. It’s unclear how Mitchell’s silence on this case — and many others — jibes with his responsibility of watchdogging city safety officials and holding them accountable for misconduct,

“Due to their positions of authority, law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard, and I am concerned by the allegations in this matter,” Mitchell wrote in an email Thursday evening. “Because it is an open investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the specifics at this time.  I will review the investigation to ensure that it is thorough and fair.“

The kid gloves with which sheriff officials seem to have handled an arrestee who is one of their colleagues is an especially sensitive issue for a department that has been criticized for ethical lapses that include nepotism and a pattern of overlooking misconduct.

In January, The Independent broke news that officer Brady Lovingier — the son of former sheriff Bill Lovingier — was caught on videotape brutally beating a handcuffed prisoner in a courtroom without provocation. The city waited a year to discipline Lovingier with a 30-day suspension for the kind of assault for which civilians regularly are arrested and convicted in Denver.

In response to the Lovingier case and other department misconduct, Wilson ordered his staff undergo refresher training in ethics.

This week, members of the department say, command staffers have started pointing fingers at each other about who is responsible for Gillespie’s special treatment.

Fidel “Butch” Montoya, Denver’s former safety manager, criticizes top city officials for “being asleep at the wheel” when it comes to allegations of law enforcement misconduct.

“I don’t understand what it takes for this Mayor, manager of safety or sheriff to see there is a crisis in leadership in the Denver Sheriff’s Department. Our City Council has not even gone on record expressing concern or outrage over scandal after scandal in the Sheriff’s Department,” Montoya said. “Denver city leadership is turning a deaf ear to jail issues which may end up affecting upcoming city elections. These issues will not be swept under the rug. They must be addressed now.”

 

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About the Author

Susan Greene

A recovering newspaper journalist and Pulitzer finalist. Her criminal justice reporting includes “Trashing the Truth,” with Miles Moffeit, and “The Gray Box.”
susan@coloradoindependent.com | 720-295-8006 | @greeneindenver

10 Comments

  1. ExDSDCaptain on said:

    Sonya Gillespie is one on the nicest individuals I worked with while at the DSD. However… I have been concerned with the “family” business of the Wilson family. The “sheriff” is also related to his sister, who is a captain. She is married to a civilian employee at the DSD.

    The issue gets muddier … Wilson when he was a captain in charge of the Car Pound, he and a subordinate had an affair. She was a sergeant then…but now a major in charge of the Internal Affairs Unit. This affair caused the divorce of Wilson and Gillespie. What is difficult to understand… is how will the “girlfriend” oversee the investigation of the ex wife?

    Yes… racial issues do exist at the DSD. A Black Mayor, safety director, sheriff, two of three division chiefs and at least one major. Blacks are less than 20% of deputy sheriffs, however hold more than 50% of supervisory positions.

    Captain Jodi Blair…who may have called foul on the treatment of Gillespie is correct. Sure…no officer of the law wants to spend the night in jail, moreover one that they supervise. It appears the DSD does not have a policy how to handle one of their own. Sure there is “professional courtesy”… however where does it start and end?

    Should have Gillespie received special treatment…no! She is obligated to ask for protective custody due to her profession. However, the actions of the division chief is questionable.

    To me… Blacks will support Blacks. It is obvious at the DSD. It is clear and unfortunate that perhaps a deputy of a different race may not receive the same DSD escort to court and a ride home.

  2. OutsideLookingIn on said:

    The Denver Sheriff Department needs an internal investigation, from top to bottom. There has been an enormous case of nepotism, that has gone on for many years. The “Wilson Family Dynasty” is at the helm, and certainly needs some ‘outside eyes cast upon it”. The most recent incident begins with Captain Gillespie, who was married to Sheriff Gary Wilson. They share 2 children together, that live with their mother. Her career within the department has been carefully crafted, allowing her to have daytime hours, with evenings, weekends and holidays off. No hardship on her, or the children ever caused by a career that most others have had to sacrifice many family occasions. When Gillespie was a sergeant, she receive a privileged position, working in Internal Affairs, handling Civil Liabilities. There, she was afforded great hours, with much flexibility. Other parallel employees worked 12 hr. shifts, splitting weekends off, and covering holidays. Often coming in at 3am. or 3pm. and having far more seniority than she had. After she got promoted to the rank of Captain, she was afforded yet another privileged assignment, being assigned to Denver Health. Again, she worked ‘normal hours and days’ not being affected by nights, weekends or holidays. There are claims made, that Gillespie is back at her assigned job at DH Med Center, in uniform with her weapon. Typically, when someone has a pending DV charge, this is not permitted.

    It is believed that with this type of favoritism, Sheriff Wilson and Captain Gillespie never had any hardships placed on their personal lives that they shared. Other people on that department, make sacrifices their entire duration.

    Sheriff Wilson has taken good care of his family, making sure they had administrative positions within the department. A cousin who is presently an Acting Division Chief. This individual has been terminated twice in the past, for excessive force issues. A sister who was promoted to Major, but had an EEOC case filed against her. For this, she was demoted to Captain. When she finally came back to work, she was also given a privileged assignment, affording her no nights, weekends or holidays. A best friend, who is also a Division Chief, and an ex lover, who is a Major.

    It is a shame that this was ever permitted to occur, and really should be examined in depth. There are many able and very capable members of this department, that could do an excellent job for the taxpayers of Denver. None of them being related to one another.

  3. Ex- Deputy on said:

    There was a prior domestic that took place, thus the promise that the now Director has fulfilled in lieu of Sonya pressing charges making her a Sgt., then a Captain. This all stemming from an affair he the Director had with a now Internal Affaire”s personal for the S/O. and the family tie’s of a sister and other relatives of the director receiving promotions and special positions that others who applied and were passed up and who deserved it more on merit and not because they were related. A once held private meeting with relative and Division Chief at the county jail along with the mayor, to attempt to have this Division Chief become the Manager of Safety, only turned down because he would be more protected in the S/O then by the people of the city directly as the Manager of Safety. It just doesn’t end with the special treatment within the Wilson Family and the way other’s are treated if not related. Sad as the integrity has seriously diminished. and definitl

  4. Remembering on said:

    Plus this same sister attended to her wedding plans (to the the DSD civilian)using the city’s time. Amazing chutzpah if you have any ethics…..
    sitting in her office while the unprivileged workers were extremely busy. Not the only
    notable of this persuasion for her, however.

  5. DSDneedsnewleadership on said:

    Will someone please come into the DSD and hold Gary Wison accountable? When will the nepotism end? It’s incredibly sad to see good deputies and sergeants punished for doing their jobs by the Independent Monitor, which by the way has never been a law enforcement officer. When will “sheriff” Wilson go to bat for his people and stand up for what is right? At this point why have the citizens of Denver not demanded for his resignation? When will the “administration” uphold to the new DSD vision of “transparency”? When will Wilson acknowledge that his No.2 man was a thief and crook who embezzled money?

    I ask all these questions because they need to be answered.

  6. Tired of the Double Standard on said:

    Sheriff Wilson is now trying to convince the public that the problems at the Department stem from stress. There has always been stress in this job. What IS different now, and the real reason for the problems is a leadership who constantly preaches ethics while not displaying any himself. What do you expect when you place your ex-mistress, who was your subordinate at the time of the affair, in charge of Internal Affairs, handing out discipline for breaking rules. Who ever functions well under a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do regime?! The ex-mistress has now been moved out of Internal Affairs, but her promotion to Major was extended to her despite her inability to perform effectively in that capacity.

    Thank you to ExDSDCaptain for shedding further light on the subject. I was unaware that said Chief was a cousin of Sheriff Wilson. But it does explain how someone is promoted to Chief after being fired and rehired by the Department 3 times (not 2).

    Wilson did, as stated above, attempt to promote his sister to Major, with the blessing of the former Manager of Safety, Ashley Kilroy, only to have upwards of 30 Deputies lodge a complaint against his sister also as stated above.

    DSD used to be a great place to work. Now it is a place where promotion and recognition is based on who you’re related to, not on merit. Now there is no trust in the leadership who says one thing, but does another.

  7. josephine talarico on said:

    Misconduct with law enforcement is not only in Denver I am a victim of misconduct of the Broomfield Police, I was wrongfully arrested April 19th 2013 because I left the court house with my son. He had a hearing for a DUI and he was a total fool to go there drunk and I am equally stupid to have taken him there. When we went through the decetor they smelled him and asked if we have been drinking. I said no because I wasn’t drunk or even had any thing to drink as it turned out my son realized he could not make to the court room he just about fell and was in bad shape so we left the officer’s saw us leaving and did not do or say any thing until I pulled out of the parking lot. Within minutes I was being pulled over the officer asked me if I knew that I hit a car and I said no and I am sure I did not hit a car and he said step out I will show you and he was going to show me the damage there was no damage and I asked if I could get the information to contact the person who I hit all he said you don’t need to worry about that and proceeded to ask if I have been drinking I said no and he still would not accept that, he gave me a breath test and it came up 0.00 so that was not good enough he said I had to take a road side test I told him I could not do it because I had two hip replacements and my legs are uneven so I will not be able to walk, he didn’t care he gave it to me and then told me to turn around because he said I was under the influence without any proof he put cuffs on me and I asked why are you doing this and he said the way you walk and talk sounds and looks like you are under the influence. It was a $2000.00 cash bond because I had a DWAI in 2003 he didn’t know that until we got to the jail and did some investaging he found that information. I did get out but it did not end. I went to get the discovery and the same bullie was there and asked how did I get there I told him I drove he said do you know you are not suppose to drive I said no because there has not been any convicition. He said wait here I asked him if he was going to rrest me and all he could say was sit here I will be back I sat and waited and he came back with another officer who he told him to give me a BA and again it was 0.00 so he then said I had to do a roadside I told the same story but neither of them care they arrested me again Dejuve. Another $2000.00 cash bond I had to get my 85 yr old mom and sister to come and bond me out. This story does not end there it has gone on for one year and I was arrested two more times and I can not get any one to give me advice or even listen I am not sure why but I wrote a letter to govener Hicenlooper The ACLU and letter of complaints to the Broomfield Police but not even a reponse. I am not expecting any thing but after reading about police misconduct I just had to write. I know it sounds like babble and like I said there is still more they finally got me to agree to a plea and tommrow is my sentence hearing can’t wait ti see how that goes. The public defender suggested that I not say any thing to the judge because I want to tell her the real story and he said it would make it worse. It is so sad that we no longer have freedom of speech it is as though we are not a free country any more. Thank you for being there with your column it is so nice to be able to be heard. Josephine josie562014@hotmail.com

  8. CRADKE on said:

    The “major” spoken of in “XDSDCAptain”‘s email was not a major in the internal affairs bureau of the DSD in June 2014.

    Also, I would like to know why this publication is using unauthorized photos of the DSD without credits? Is this a common practice of this publication?

  9. CRADKE on said:

    I would like to say that the Independent has not been forthcoming in it’s sources; it is reported that Captain Wynn (commander of IAB with DSD) took it upon himself to share photos of the Deputy Ford events with the media because he was dissatisfied with not being promoted to Major, which, if true, says much about his own commitment to his duties and his oath as an officer… I am also appalled (and not alone in this) at how many citizens simply buy into a spin on actual events and rely on the media and dissatisfied employees of DSD for “truth”, when clearly there is a personal agenda to be had. Maybe it is a reflection on our school system that doesn’t teach critical thinking of students who become adults in our society, and/or maybe folks are just lazy and want others to do their critical thinking for them, but my experience with DSD is no where near what some of these people have posted.

    My experience has been that yes, there are blind spots, as with any organization. At the same time, I will say that I believe Gary Wilson has done more for the department than any sheriff before him in sincere effort to create something better than what he inherited, regardless of human flaws, and that at every step, he placed this vision before his personal agenda to the best of his ability.

    I also wish to say that the staff of the DSD are far and away some of the finest people I have had privilege to know. I temper this to say there are exceptions, as in every organization, and those persons should be immediately rooted out with swift action, but overall, these officers and staff are good people with good intentions, good training, and fine records.

    I am sorry Captain Wynn allegedly succumbed to honoring anything different, because he is also a very fine human being.

  10. Cradke on said:

    In reply to this comment by “DSDneedsnewleadership”:
    Will someone please come into the DSD and hold Gary Wison accountable? When will the nepotism end? It’s incredibly sad to see good deputies and sergeants punished for doing their jobs by the Independent Monitor, which by the way has never been a law enforcement officer. When will “sheriff” Wilson go to bat for his people and stand up for what is right? At this point why have the citizens of Denver not demanded for his resignation? When will the “administration” uphold to the new DSD vision of “transparency”? When will Wilson acknowledge that his No.2 man was a thief and crook who embezzled money?

    I ask all these questions because they need to be answered.

    My response:
    1) Well, yes, of course you are right, the Independent Monitor has never been a law enforcement officer.

    2) Mr. Wilson took swift action against former Chief Than. With regard to nepotism, Chief Than was not and is not his relative.

    3)”Good” sergeants (and other staff) are not punished for being good LEOs by the Department, and I/not others can speak for Independent for “punishing them”…

    3) The “new” DSD vision does not mention transparency, although to some extent it may make sense. (When was the last time you read the vision statement and applied it?)

    4) The people of Denver who actually have thinking minds will never demand any resignation of Chief Wilson and will see beyond the media and woefully disconcerted employees who have a similar mindset to the family of Booker who believe themselves entitled to a get rich quick strategy and fail to take accountability…

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