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The racial justice protests that rocked Mile High City a year ago have resulted in at least five lawsuits against the Denver Police Department, including one by Michael Acker, who claims DPD officers mutilated, and another by Russell Strong, who lost an eye after being hit by a kinetic impact projectile while holding a sign with the symbol of peace. And in December, the Independent Monitor’s office released a report detailing a wide range of departmental practices during the events.
The Denver Police Department’s Answer? On May 4, DPD officials revealed discipline but no dismissal for a total of two officers, Diego Archuleta and Derek Streeter; Archuleta has been suspended for six days while Streeter will sit outside for ten days. And while the chairman of the Citizen Oversight Board in Denver reportedly said that more police officers could be punished for their protest-related efforts, there was no suggestion of anything other than suspensions.
The Archuleta incident occurred shortly after midnight on June 1, 2020, the fifth day of the demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. According to its DPD disciplinary code, “the protests were of unprecedented proportions and every day after sunset the legitimate protest activity turned into destructive and violent unrest.”
While reviewing body-worn camera footage showing interactions between District 4 impact teams and citizens on the 1400 block of Logan Street, a sergeant highlighted footage showing a woman in a small sport utility vehicle as “contempt for the action.” the officer expressed. “” Archuleta reportedly responded to her question, “What, they are going to kill this guy?” Oleoresin Capsaicin is the active ingredient in pepper spray – on the woman’s windshield before he goes away.
When asked about his actions, Archuletta admitted that “I made a mistake … As soon as I did that, I wanted to move away because I shouldn’t have fogged her windshield with an OC fog.”
His conclusion: “I’m better than that and I just apologize.”
Like Archuleta, Streeter was careful to respond to verbal criticism with violent violence. His suspension warrant cites body-worn camera footage just after 11 p.m. on May 29, the second day of the protests, as he rode on the step of a police vehicle traveling north on Broadway and stopping south on 14th Avenue. At this point the vehicle stopped, officers dismounted, and Streeter was seen “reloading and recharging” his PepperBall launcher.
At that point, a bright limousine drove by and one of its occupants shouted, “You can’t even spell country [unintelligible]”A second, similarly colored vehicle followed with a roaring woman.” You get that [uintelligible]’and one guy added,’ Fuckwad! You pussies! [unintelligible]. “
Streeter’s reaction? He fired “three rounds of PepperBall in the direction of the car”.
In a subsequent interview, Streeter claimed he shot the car because “I thought this man was positioning himself to throw something at us or attack us when he passed”. [because of] the fact that I couldn’t see both hands when he hung out of the vehicle. “
“However, Officer Streeter’s explanation for firing the three rounds is not plausible,” the investigators concluded. “The passenger hung out the window while shouting profanity at officers and likely holding on to the moving car as it pulled away from the officers. The moving car was far from the officers when Officer Streeter first tried PepperBalls … At this initial distance, the passenger did not pose a sustainable threat to the officers. The vehicle was further away at the time of the shot. “
Those measures were clearly problematic – but that it took nearly twelve months to essentially deliver a pair of slaps in the face is an indictment of the current disciplinary system that will do little to convince critics that the Denver Police Department is in the Is able to monitor oneself.
Click here to read the Disciplinary Rules for Officers Diego Archuleta and Derek Streeter.
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Michael Roberts has been writing for Westword since October 1990 and has worked as a music editor and media columnist. It currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.