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Liquor code investigation: Springs police did drink at Hooters

September 19, 2011

A surveillance video that led to the dismissal of an alleged liquor code violation against Hooters also reveals that Colorado Springs police detectives were drinking alcohol despite assurances to a judge that they weren’t.

Police Chief Richard Myers blamed the discrepancy on a misunderstanding.

“There are zero indications to us from the City Attorney’s Office of any untruthfulness on the part of any of our officers on this,” Myers said Monday.

The case against Hooters at The Citadel mall had already raised questions about the integrity of the investigation and the two detectives who alleged that a waitress had served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron.

The City Attorney’s Office dismissed the alleged liquor code violation against Hooters on Friday after a lawyer for Hooters produced a video that he said disputes the detectives’ assertions in a police report.

A separate but related criminal case against the Hooters waitress is pending in Municipal Court. But her attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charge last week. The hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

It was in the criminal case against the waitress, an 18-year-old single mom from Pueblo, that a city prosecutor asserted that detectives weren’t drinking alcohol during their investigation.

In court documents filed earlier this month, prosecuting attorney Elliot Fladen maintained that “CSPD consumed no alcohol either at Hooters or before investigating it” June 23.

In addition, during a subsequent court hearing, Fladen told a judge at least twice that the detectives weren’t drinking alcohol during their investigation.

Fladen was challenging a request from the waitress’ attorney, Pat Mika, who was requesting receipts of alcohol purchased by detectives at Hooters or other liquor establishments, if any, beforehand.

Fladen maintained that no receipts existed because the detectives hadn’t been drinking.

“Our understanding of this situation in talking with Detective (Jeff) True was that no alcohol was in fact consumed either before the investigation at Hooters restaurant or during Hooters restaurant. As such, no evidence would exist pertaining to alcohol,” Fladen told the judge.

The surveillance video — which the police chief said wasn’t a video but “still photos strung together” — shows one of the detectives drinking a beer and the other detective drinking two beers. The Hooters attorney declined to provide a copy of the video to The Gazette.

However, the newspaper requested the video from the city late Monday under the Colorado Open Records Act. The city has three days to respond to the request.

Fladen, the city attorney prosecuting the waitress, said his statement to the Municipal Court judge earlier this month and the information he wrote in the court filing were “based on conversations” with the Police Department.

“The representation in our response to defendant’s motion for discovery was based on the best factual information that we had at the time I filed it and also at the time I argued it to the court,” he said.

When asked whether True or the other detective gave him incorrect information, Fladen said he didn’t think so.

“I do not believe that any CSPD officer intentionally gave me incorrect information,” he said.

Neither True nor his supervisor, Sgt. Bret Poole, returned a call for comment. A woman who answered the phone at Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Division offices Monday said True had the day off.

Myers said he had a long conversation with a supervisor in the city’s prosecution unit and learned that there was a miscommunication between detectives and prosecutors.

“There was more than one attorney talking with detectives, and somewhere along the line, there were some wires that got crossed. That kind of thing actually happens every day and you just end up ironing it out,” he said. “This notion that there was a credibility or non-truthfulness issue, absolutely zero indication of that.”

Police investigating compliance of liquor laws are allowed to purchase and consume alcohol as part of their job. Myers said there’s no proof that the detectives in this case stepped outside of bounds.

“We certainly have policies and procedures and tactics that undercover officers have to follow pertaining to purchasing and/or consumption of alcohol as part of their operation.”

Myers said the detectives thought the prosecutor was asking whether they were getting intoxicated to make a case against the waitress when in fact they had gone to Hooters with an underage confidential informant who had tried — but failed — to purchase alcohol.

“The officers were answering a question about had they been drinking to the point of intoxication in order to catch this waitress, and their response was, ‘No, no, no, no. It’s nothing like that. We were watching this other person drink,’” Myers said.

But in court earlier this month, Fladen told the judge that he and True had reviewed the facts of the case.

“I spoke with Detective True on multiple occasions regarding this motion,” Fladen said.
Mika, the waitress’ attorney, on Friday called for an investigation. He said the videotape “completely contradicts” the factual narrative in the detectives’ report.

“I think there’s some real questions about the integrity of this undercover investigation and certainly any kind of past investigations that have taken place by these particular officers,” he said.

“The people of this community and the business owners of this community that own restaurants and serve alcohol at restaurants deserve to have oversight by people that can be trusted, who are going to do honest investigations and who are going to represent the truth in their investigations,” he said.

Myers said he didn’t know of anything that would trigger an internal investigation in this case. But he said it would be a learning experience.

“This case certainly will be debriefed with the City Attorney’s Office,” he said. “There’s a lot of questions that both sides need to answer. How do you pose a question if you’re looking for factual information? How do you answer that question? What documentation is in your report?”

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