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3 Denver sheriff’s deputies suspended for treatment toward inmates

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DENVER -- Three Denver sheriff's deputies have been suspended 10 days each for separate incidents. The discipline orders come one week before a task force is expected to adopt a new use of force policy for the Denver Sheriff’s Department.

Deputy David Steckman received his suspension after jail video showed him using pepper spray on an inmate whose hands were already cuffed behind his back. In addition, the pepper spray mist also hit a fellow deputy who was assisting Steckman.

“Well, it's definitely disturbing. I don't see any cause for pepper spraying someone whose hands are behind their back ,” said Lisa Calderon, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum.

Calderon is a member of the Sheriff’s Task Force thst is working on a new use of force policy for the sheriff’s department.

“The work of the task force is long overdue and it's in response to tragedy, tragedy in Denver jails,” Calderon said.

A second deputy, Sonya Leyba, was suspended for 10 days after investigators said she left an inmate stranded on a courthouse elevator. The inmate had just left a courthouse appearance and was placed on a special elevator to go back to his holding cell.

But Leyba, who was in charge of the elevators from a remote control center, never had the elevator move to another floor.

The incident happened near the end of Leyba’s shift. According to her discipline report, she allowed conversations on her cellphone to distract her and she went home unaware she left an inmate stranded on an elevator.

It would take other deputies 36 minutes to realize the mistake and retrieve the inmate from the elevator.

"I can't imagine what this man must have gone through to sit there for a long period of time. No way to get out, handcuffed behind his back. That's definitely unacceptable,” Calderon said.

The Department of Public Safety refused to release video of the third incident because it shows a naked inmate, acting drunk and suicidal who threw her pants at Deputy Anna Romero.

At one point, Romero’s discipline report suggests Romero became frustrated and yanked the inmate by her hair, whipping her head to one side.

All three incidents took place more than a year ago, before new Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman began training recruits and staff on new procedures.

“The new policy will emphasize de-escalation as an alternative to use of force and clarifies when force may be used," Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman Daelene Mix said.

The new policy is expected to be adopted by the sheriff’s task force when Firman returns to Denver from a conference next week.

All three deputies are expected to serve their suspensions in the next month, even though all three have filed appeals.