Sat. Sep 24th, 2022


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57 Denver sheriff’s deputies have potential credibility issues, city review finds

4 min read

Dozens of Denver sheriff’s deputies have histories of lying or criminal activity that may impact their credibility in court — including the sheriff himself.

A review by city public safety officials launched last year found that 57 current and former uniformed Denver Sheriff Department personnel had problems with their credibility, according to documents obtained by The Denver Post through a public records request. Twenty-nine of those people are still employed by the department, including five sergeants and one captain.

Denver public safety officials announced last year that they would conduct a review of sheriff’s department discipline records to create a list of deputies whose backgrounds might affect their credibility if called to testify in court.

The sheriff’s department had never reported such officers to the Denver District Attorney’s Office, though it is common practice to do so. Prosecutors then compile that information — often called a “Brady list” after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling — and are required to disclose it to defense attorneys if those officers are called to testify.

The reasons each deputy was included on the list vary widely. One former deputy, Rosanna Jenkins, was added to the list because of discrimination against jail inmates. Jenkins was fired, then reinstated, after calling an inmate “nappy head” and saying “Black is whack” after the same inmate commented on her tan, according to the deputy’s 2014 disciplinary letter. Jenkins is no longer with the department, records show.

Of the 29 current employees on the list, five were included because of untruthfulness and 24 were added to the list because of criminal convictions. At least seven of the deputies had been convicted of driving while ability impaired — the most common conviction. Other convictions included theft, prohibited use of a gun, obstructing a police officer, false reporting, cruelty to animals and harassment. The criminal convictions for current deputies are as old as 1989 and as recent as last year.

Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins was included on the list because of a 1996 conviction for misdemeanor false reporting. Diggins was charged with attempting to influence a public official, a felony, for lying to a judge about whether he had insurance after a car crash. Diggins, who was 23 at the time, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.

The crime happened two years after Diggins joined the sheriff’s department, and the record came to public attention after Diggins was named interim sheriff in 2014.

“I’ve always been forthcoming with taking responsibility for what happened 24 years ago,” Diggins told The Post in a recent interview. “And every subject that is subject to the Brady list requirements must follow them, including myself.”

Although the review is complete, it’s unclear whether any of those deputies testified in any criminal cases because the district attorney’s office did not check.

“We did not look backwards to see if any of those deputy sheriffs testified in any cases,” Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, said in an email in response to questions from The Post. “The vast majority of our law enforcement witnesses are Denver Police Department officers.”

Unlike other Colorado sheriff’s offices, Denver Sheriff Department deputies do not work on patrol or as investigators. The department’s primary responsibilities include running the city’s two jails, transporting jail inmates and providing security in courthouses. Denver police also investigate any allegations of crimes occurring in the jails. That means Denver’s deputies are unlikely to be called as witnesses in court.

The Public Integrity Division, a subset of the Denver Department of Safety that oversees Denver sheriff internal affairs investigations, discovered last year that there was no Brady list. When officials announced in December 2019 that they would conduct a review, they promised to publicly release a list on the findings in the first quarter of 2020.

That never happened, though the Denver District Attorney’s Office provided the list to The Denver Post in response to a records request. Since the announcement of the review, both the public safety director, Troy Riggs, and the leader of the Public Integrity Division’s Administrative Investigations Unit, Dave Walcher, left their positions with the city. Riggs took a job in the private sector in January, and Walcher in July joined the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, where he is now the undersheriff.

No new disciplinary cases were opened as part of the review, public safety spokeswoman Kelli Christensen said.

Going forward, the department will use the same protocols as the Denver Police Department regarding potential Brady material and will notify the district attorney’s office of potential Brady issues, said Greg Huff, who replaced Walcher as manager of the Administrative Investigations Unit.

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