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March 2011

Denver Employment Team Wins Appeal in High-Profile Termination of Police Officer

The Denver Employment Law team of John Keen and Heather Gwinn Pabon won an appeal on behalf of a city and its Chief of Police in a well-publicized termination of a police officer in a metropolitan police department. The termination of the appellant resulted from an Internal Affairs Investigation by the police department involving 19 separate incidents of alleged police misconduct, the largest number of incidents investigated in the history of the police department. The three month-long investigation resulted in police officer terminations and resignations, as well as extensive media coverage of the investigation itself and numerous related lawsuits alleging improper use of force, destruction of property, and other police misconduct.

The appellant was a field training officer who taught officer candidates compliance with police procedure and laws. He asserted that the Chief of Police had acted arbitrarily and capriciously when he disciplined and terminated the officer’s employment. The Appellant was internally investigated on allegations of destroying a citizen's cell phone, throwing his flashlight at a driver of a motor scooter, excessive use of force, and misrepresentations made during an internal investigation.

Gordon & Rees argued that the appellant's termination was not the result of arbitrary or capricious decision-making. On the contrary, the decision was based on substantial evidence proving that the appellant violated multiple departmental and city personnel rules. Further, Gordon & Rees demonstrated that the police department had highly credible internal investigation practices and an appropriate decision-making process that resulted in the discharge of the appellant's employment.

The Special Hearing Officer, a senior district court judge in the State of Colorado, agreed with Gordon & Rees, found justifiable cause for the officer's termination, and determined that the Chief of Police had not acted arbitrarily or capriciously in deciding that termination was the appropriate disciplinary action.

Heather M. Gwinn Pabon