DENVER -- In an open letter to Denver Police Chief Robert White, the Citizen Oversight Board criticized the department's response to a FOX31 Denver investigation into the actions of officers during an arrest in which excessive force may have been used.
Last month we reported on a video showing a Denver Police officer punching an unarmed man six times in the face during an arrest and tripping the man's pregnant girlfriend.
The report also included the statements of Levi Frasier, who saw the arrest and recorded it on his tablet. Frasier said he was approached by an officer who ordered him to turn over the tablet.
Frasier gave police the tablet and when it was returned to him, the video he recorded of the arrest was gone, he said. The video was recovered when Frasier found a copy stored in his electronic cloud storage.
Frasier has said he thinks the video was deleted to cover up for the officer's actions.
“It was very well known that the video was shot and things were done on the video that shouldn’t be leaked out, that it would be bad for the reputations of the police officers,” Frasier said.
Shortly after our story aired, Denver Police replied with a four-page news release titled "Accuracy Matters" about the incident and our story that defended the officer's behavior and criticized Frasier's credibility by listing his criminal record and saying he had used aliases.
"We strongly believe that it was not appropriate for the DPD to make these statements," COB Chairwoman Mary Davis said in the letter.
"Instead of thanking the witness who came forward to share information, the DPD publicly attacked his character," Davis said. "It is very likely that the DPD’s attacks on this witness will only reinforce fears in the community, and inhibit other members of the public from cooperating with DPD or IAB (Internal Affairs) if they witness possible officer misconduct in the future."
An Internal Affairs investigation is underway into the officer's actions. Davis said DPD should not have commented until after Internal Affairs made its ruling.
"Given the nature and timing of the aforementioned public statements by the DPD, as the Citizen Oversight Board we are very concerned that the DPD may not be approaching this matter with an open mind and a willingness to look into it without bias," Davis said.
A Denver Police investigation last summer cleared the officers saying the force was necessary per policy. However, the lieutenant who made that determination did not see Frasier’s video.
Denver Police Cmdr. Matt Murray said the department would review Frasier’s claims and if disciplinary action is warranted, the department will be transparent and let the public know.
In response to the COB letter, Murray said, "The Denver Police Department has been proactively investigating this incident since it occurred and re-opened the investigation when new allegations were made."
"We are committed to transparency and will share the results of that investigation when it is concluded," he said.
The oversight board is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council, is an unusual move, sources have said. The board is charged with assessing the Independent Monitor's Office and making policy recommendations regarding discipline, use of force and other policies.
The FBI Public Corruption Unit is looking into the actions of a small group of Denver Police officers and if the department properly investigated a use of force incident.