Bad Cop/Bad Cop: IA Gets Involved in Denver Cop Domestic Violence Case

Denver police are investigating the Denver Sheriff Department for giving preferential treatment to a top sheriff official arrested Sunday on a domestic violence charge.

Sheriff Department Captain Sonya Gillespie – ex-wife of Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson – was taken into sheriff custody after an altercation with her fiancé at her home in Green Valley Ranch. Her colleagues immediately circled the wagons, as shown in a memo obtained by The Independent.

Sheriff Captain Deric Wynn notified Wilson of the arrest shortly after it was carried out. Wilson then called Chief Frank Gale and then notified city safety manager Stephanie O’Malley. Wilson also contacted Nicholas Mitchell, the city’s independent safety monitor, to disclose his past relationship with Gillespie.

On Sunday evening, Wilson wrote a memo saying he wouldn’t be involved in decision-making about the case.

It’s unclear who, then, was making decisions to treat Gillespie differently than the thousands of other arrestees the sheriff department deals with annually.

Members of the department say a videotape shows Chief Gale — who runs the city’s detention center — accompanying Gillespie to a court hearing on Monday, then escorting her to a department-issued car, and then driving away with Gillespie as his passenger. Gale would not return inquires about whether he was acting under orders or by his own volition.

A complaint has been filed and an internal affairs case opened. City officials would not say if Gale — who long served as spokesman for the department — is the subject of the complaint, as members of the department have told The Independent.

Neither Gale, the sheriff office, the safety department nor Mayor Michael Hancock’s office would return phone calls about the case, even though all three offices have been in discussion since the arrest over how, if at all, to discuss it publicly.

In this case as in previous sheriff department misconduct cases, Hancock administration officials cite the internal affairs investigation as reason for refusing to comment.

“As such, it is premature for our department to respond to your questions, and imperative that we allow that process to run its course,” safety department spokeswoman Daelene Mix emailed The Independent. 

Mitchell, the official tasked with watchdogging city safety officials and holding them accountable for misconduct, also wouldn’t speak about the case, even though Sheriff Wilson consulted him about it shortly after the arrest.

“Due to their positions of authority, law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard, and I am concerned by the allegations in this matter,” Mitchell wrote in an email Thursday evening. “Because it is an open investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the specifics at this time.  I will review the investigation to ensure that it is thorough and fair.“

The kid gloves with which sheriff officials seem to have handled an arrestee who is one of their colleagues is an especially sensitive issue for a department that has been criticized for ethical lapses that include nepotism and a pattern of overlooking misconduct.

In January, The Independent broke news that officer Brady Lovingier — the son of former sheriff Bill Lovingier — was caught on videotape brutally beating a handcuffed prisoner in a courtroom without provocation. The city waited a year to discipline Lovingier with a 30-day suspension for the kind of assault for which civilians regularly are arrested and convicted in Denver.

In response to the Lovingier case and other department misconduct, Wilson ordered his staff undergo refresher training in ethics.

This week, members of the department say, command staffers have started pointing fingers at each other about who is responsible for Gillespie’s special treatment. The safety department said it was “unable to confirm” whether Captain Jodi Blair filed the complaint against Gale. It also wouldn’t say what role, if any, Blair had in processing Gillespie, a fellow captain, through the jail and releasing her.

After two business days of silence about the case, Mix wrote Thursday evening that more details will come “when business resumes” today.

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