Kentucky lawsuit alleges outgoing Denver Police Chief Robert White covered up botched rape investigation

Outgoing Denver Police Chief Robert White is being named in a civil rights lawsuit in Louisville, Ky., alleging that under his leadership there a decade ago, the police department mistreated a rape victim, mishandled her case and lied to her continually about the investigation.

A civil rights lawsuit was filed June 19 in U.S. District Court by Salisa Luster Harrison, who says she was strangled, beaten and sexually assaulted by a stranger in 2008. She alleges that Louisville police lied when they told her rape kit had been fully tested, covered for a neglectful police officer and engaged in a conspiracy to bury her case.

All of that, Luster Harrison claims, was enabled by White, who served as police chief in Louisville from 2003 to 2011. The lawsuit specifically alleges that White made it difficult for Luster Harrison and her mother to file a complaint about officer misconduct, and allowed an officer who’d mishandled the investigation to retire early and avoid possible discipline.

Through a Denver Police Department spokesman, White declined to comment on the suit in which he is one of 10 named defendants. Instead, he issued a statement: “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on this case because it is pending litigation that also names other individuals.”

White is soon to retire after six years in Denver, though he has not said when exactly he’ll step down. Cmdr. Paul Pazen has been named his successor.

Photo by Tony Webster, Creative Commons/Flickr