Loopholes and Regulatory Blind Spots Allow Officers with Abusive Conduct Records to Remain in Law Enforcement

The 24-member Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board

A former Denver police officer, Shane Madrigal, faced allegations of disturbing misconduct during his tenure, including boasting to colleagues about a fatal shooting he was involved in and making derogatory remarks about various groups. Despite these allegations, Madrigal was allowed to resign from the force and continues to remain qualified to serve in law enforcement due to a series of regulatory loopholes and oversight failures.

An investigation by the Colorado News Collaborative (CoLab), in collaboration with The Sentinel in Aurora and Rocky Mountain Public Media, has revealed significant issues within Colorado’s police disciplinary system. These problems include gaps in the reporting of disciplinary actions, the exclusion of pre-2022 disciplinary data from a state database, and a lack of authority to investigate or discipline officers whose departments have ignored their misconduct.

One glaring issue is that officers with documented records of abusive conduct often maintain clean disciplinary records with the Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board, the state agency responsible for training and certifying police officers. Several key findings from the investigation shed light on these shortcomings:

  1. Loopholes in Disciplinary Reporting: POST relies on local police and sheriff’s departments to report disciplinary actions taken against officers. However, the investigation revealed that many departments fail to report such actions, and POST has chosen not to sanction them for non-compliance.
  2. Incomplete and Outdated Database: The state’s new police database, created to flag officers with lost certifications, contains glitches that result in inaccurate information. Some officers with disciplinary actions do not appear in the database, and others are listed with misleading information.
  3. Exclusion of Pre-2022 Data: POST does not include disciplinary data from before January 1, 2022, in the database, despite an initial expectation that it would. This omission means that the majority of officers with disciplinary actions before this date have their records shielded from public view.
  4. Prosecutorial Influence: The current system closely links decertification to criminal convictions. This places considerable authority in the hands of local district attorneys, potentially allowing officers charged with de-certifiable offenses to negotiate plea deals and retain their certifications.

Despite efforts in recent years to reform police discipline in Colorado, including legislation aimed at enhancing accountability and transparency, the investigation highlights significant gaps in the system. These shortcomings raise concerns among civil rights advocates and underscore the need for further improvements to ensure that officers with histories of misconduct do not continue to serve in law enforcement roles.

As discussions surrounding police reform continue, addressing these issues in Colorado’s police disciplinary system remains a critical aspect of the ongoing efforts to promote accountability and integrity within law enforcement agencies across the state.

Author: CrimeDoor

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