DENVER — The Civil Service Commission has overturned a decision to fire a Denver cop who admitted to speeding while intoxicated. It is a decision Denver’s manager of safety is fighting to overturn.
Officer Derrick Saunders was sentenced to five days in jail after pleading guilty to charges he was drunk and driving 143 mph in a 55 mph zone on June 17, 2010.The manager of safety fired Saunders last December. Saunders appealed, arguing his termination was unfair and excessive.
Now a panel of hearing officers is saying the drinking and speeding didn’t warrant termination, which the manager of safety disagrees with.Manager of Safety Alex Martinez said the decision to overturn Saunders’ dismissal “deprives the manager of the authority to impose reasonable discipline and disrespects the efforts of the many honorable law-abiding Denver police officers to maintain high standards of professionalism.” “We would never hire someone as a law enforcement officer who had engaged in this behavior and should not be required by hearing officers to continue to employ someone as an officer with this proven criminal conduct, ” Martinez added.
Saunders’ termination was overruled based on “discretion and precedence.”The Civil Service Commission said the Denver manager of safety “failed to prove any extraordinary aggravation” and “also failed to consider (Saunders’) mitigating factors.”“Moreover, the disciplinary action of termination far exceeds the discipline given to other officers in comparative or greater misconduct cases,” the commission argued.
The Civil Service Commission said this is not the end of the case. The city attorney has 10 days to file a motion to stay or an appeal.
In firing Saunders, Martinez wrote the June incident showed “a serious lack of character” related to being a police officer and “a willful and wanton disregard” for police department values.
“The extraordinary high speed alone is stunning. The fact that you drove at this dangerous speed while your ability to drive was impaired by alcohol is shocking. In addition, you were driving at night and with a passenger in the car,” Martinez wrote when he terminated Saunders.
Saunders previously had been cleared of pointing a gun at a McDonald’s employee in Aurora in 2009. The employee said Saunders, an officer assigned to Denver International Airport, grew impatient when his order wasn’t filled fast enough. He was in the drive-thru with another off-duty officer when he pulled the gun on them on May 2009, according to the McDonald’s workers.
Saunders denied pointing the gun and a jury cleared Saunders of felony menacing and weapons charges in April 2010.Saunders has been a Denver police officer since 2007.