Lying cops face consequences in Colorado

David Heitz

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It’s a hot topic in this era of police reform: Police can and do lie to criminal suspects. Quite often. And it’s perfectly legal in most of the country. For now.

But in Colorado, lying cops face consequences. Legislation introduced last year resulted in six Colorado cops losing their jobs after lying.

“This is historic in that we have not had prior de-certifications for untruthfulness,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told NPR in a report last December. “This is an important effort.”

“Officers are usually fired from their respective law enforcement agency if they’re found to have lied in court or amid a criminal investigation -- but there was nothing to stop them from finding another job at a law enforcement agency in Colorado,” according to the report. “Once decertified, though, they are not licensed to work as police officers in Colorado.

“The 2019 law is among a handful of efforts by the state legislature in recent years to hold police officers more accountable -- and to prevent ones who have been fired from finding positions elsewhere. Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a sweeping police accountability bill that puts more restrictions on how officers can use force, among other things.

"Previously, officers only lost their certifications when they were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony."

Illinois law thrusts issue into spotlight

The topic of lying cops is burning up the news wires again because Illinois is considering a change to their law, too. Their law would flat-out ban cops from lying as opposed to punishing them for it after it happens. It would be the first law of its kind in the country.

Illinois passed the law, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, because people of color have been unduly impacted.

According to USA Today:

“If a law enforcement officer knowingly provides ‘false information about evidence or leniency’ during an interrogation, any statements from someone under 18 would be inadmissible as evidence in court, according to a bill that passed the Illinois General Assembly with near-unanimous support. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign it into law in the coming weeks.

“'Chicago is the wrongful conviction capital of the nation, and a disproportionate number of wrongful convictions were elicited from Black youth by police who were allowed to lie to them during questioning,'” state Sen. Robert Peters, one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement. “'That ends now.'”

Six Colorado cops out of work for lying

The Colorado officers who lost their jobs in December, according to USA Today, include:

· Christopher Goble, Lone Tree PD, “made an untruthful statement or knowingly omitted a fact during an internal affairs investigation.”

· Richard Jones, Pueblo PD, “made an untruthful statement while under oath. Jones was fired by the Pueblo police department on Jan. 3, 2020.”

· Christopher Tonge, Bayfield Marshal’s Office, “made an untruthful statement or knowingly omitted a material fact during an administrative investigation. Tonge was fired Jan. 19, 2020.”

· Russell Smith, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, “made an untruthful statement or knowingly omitted a material fact on an official criminal justice record. He was fired Feb. 21, 2020.”

· Jeremy Gay, Delta PD, “made an untruthful statement or knowingly omitted a material fact on an official statement on a criminal justice record. He was fired April 2, 2020.”

· Lara Dreiling, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, “made an untruthful statement concerning a material fact or knowingly omitted a material fact on an official criminal justice record and during an internal affairs investigation. She was fired on Nov. 20, 2019.”

In late January, the New York Times penned an opinion piece urging cops to stop lying during interrogations and criminal investigations.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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