Denver police watchdog says force went unpunished

By: The Associated Press
March 13, 2014 Updated: March 13, 2014 at 8:59 pm

DENVER — Denver's independent police watchdog says an officer who slammed a handcuffed woman head-first into a wall while taking her to a detox facility should have been punished for using excessive force.

Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell said in a report released Thursday that Officer Marika Putnam was not disciplined for using force against the woman in December 2012.

Surveillance video shows Putnam shoved the handcuffed woman, Patricia Lucero, into a wall, causing facial cuts that required stitches. The officer also restrained Lucero's arms with police nunchucks, which are used to restrain arrestees.

The incident occurred when police responded to a 911 hang-up call at an apartment Lucero shared with her boyfriend.

Police wrote in reports of the incident that Lucero was drunk, agitated, yelling obscenities and trying to move toward her boyfriend.

Police investigating the incident found Putnam had failed to maintain certification on the nunchucks but used reasonable force.

"I was already restrained," Lucero said in a videotaped interview at a hospital after the incident. "She had no reason to hit me that hard."

A Denver community activist said the case is a sign that, despite efforts for reform, police brutality can still occur in a city that was roiled by several excessive-force cases several years ago.

"It is inhumane and unacceptable that instances of police misconduct continue to occur," said Alex Landau, who said Denver police officers beat him and violated his civil rights in 2009. His was one of at least four high-profile beatings that caused public outcry during the same time period.

Police Chief Robert White has pledged reforms. But Landau said the Lucero case was a failure in the department's disciplinary process.

"It is disturbing that the monitor's report was not held with greater weight," Landau said.

Daelene Mix, a spokeswoman for the Manager of Safety's office, said in a statement that officials did not review discipline in the Lucero case because Mitchell did not request it.

Mitchell said he expressed his disagreement with the handling of the case multiple times during the course of several months.

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