By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A Denver police officer who has cost the city more than $1 million to settle excessive force cases for which he was never disciplined has been pulled from street patrol, a department spokesman said on Friday.
Shawn Miller has been placed on "non-line assignment" duty pending a review of his conduct and a plan to improve his performance, Denver Police Commander Matthew Murray told Reuters.
According to internal affairs files released this week, 40 complaints have been lodged against Miller during his nine years on the force, nearly half from citizens who accused him of excessive force, using profane language and threatening to arrest people for no reason.The details emerge at a testing time for the Denver Police Department, which has been embroiled in controversy since the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old girl by two officers last month that led to protests.
Murray said complaints against officers always triggered automatic performance reviews, but the process has been modified to require supervisors to provide a written plan of how to address the individual's behavior, whether or not any formal disciplinary action is taken."That's where we dropped the ball before," Murray said.
Two excessive force cases involving Miller resulted in large payouts to settle federal lawsuits filed against him and the city.
In one instance, the city paid $225,000 to a man who was struck by Miller and suffered a broken leg following a verbal altercation.
Most recently, it agreed to pay $860,000 to James Moore, a disabled veteran who said he was beaten by Miller and another officer without provocation after they responded to his home on a noise complaint. [ID:nL1N0VE1YV]
The pair "beat Mr. Moore with such brutality while he was helpless on the ground that he lost consciousness, his heart stopped beating and paramedics or law enforcement officers had to administer CPR to save his life," the lawsuit read.The lawyer for both victims, David Lane, called Miller "one of the most violent officers on the force who should not only be fired but prosecuted."
The internal affairs records show Miller was disciplined just once for a citizen complaint, a two-day suspension without pay for manhandling an innocent woman in 2010.
Murray said excessive force cases can be hard to prove without corroboration and because victims often refuse to work with investigators."If there is independent evidence, we will move forward if it's appropriate," he said"