Denver deputy accused of excessive force 3 times in one month

DENVER -- Deputy Sergeant Randolph Romero is keeping investigators with the Internal Affairs division of the Denver Sheriff's Office very busy.

Romero, 51, was charged with third-degree assault against an inmate August 4th.  But the Problem Solvers have learned that's one of three separate accusations of excessive force allegedly committed in his last month on the job before he was suspended.

The Denver District Attorney charged Romero with Misdemeanor Assault for an incident inside an elevator March 18.  Prosecutors say Romero is seen on video taking an inmate to the ground, even though jail video appears to show the act wasn't provoked and the inmate was already cuffed and wearing a spit hood. The inmate suffered a minor wrist injury during the incident.

When confronted in court about the allegation, Romero would only respond, "You'll have to speak to my attorney."  That was also his response when asked if three inmates in one month could've made up separate allegations of excessive force.

It turns out Romero was suspended April 3 after an inmate filed a complaint April 1.

Then on April 6, another inmate complained to Internal Affairs about the March 18 elevator incident that was caught on camera.

Finally on April 12, a third inmate reported an allegation of excessive force against Romero that allegedly happened on March 3.

"I think it's very concerning when we hear of repeated incidents," said Lisa Calderon who co-chairs the Colorado Latino Forum. She volunteers at the Denver Jail and sat on the city's Use of Force committee.

Lisa Calderon

"We say a lot about mental health for inmates, which we should, but we don`t talk a lot about mental health for deputies. You can`t have repeated incidents, overcrowding, rising assaults and not have that impact people`s stress levels," pointed out Calderon.

In June 2016, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman announced a new Use of Force policy that would emphasize de-escalation to reduce tension between inmates and between inmates and staff.  The Sheriff Department began training employees on the new Use of Force policy in the fourth quarter of 2016.  After that training was complete, staff input led to more policy revisions. Employees asked for additional training which began on September 18th and will continue until October 5th.”

Instead the Problem Solvers have learned the training didn't begin until September 18 of this year and won't be complete until October 5. As a result the new policy that was originally supposed to be implemented last year, now won’t go into effect until October 15th.

"I wonder about a lot of things in the jail and that`s just one of them but absolutely I would like to see more transparency in the training and how it`s being rolled out," said Calderon.

The city's new Use of Force policy includes a duty to report, stating "Failure to report such force may result in disciplinary action and could also result in a criminal prosecution."

Denver prosecutors say there were two other deputies in the elevator who witnessed Romero's conduct on March 18 but it's not known if either filed a Use of Force report.

In an email, Mary Dulacki, who is the city's records custodian for law enforcement told the Problem Solvers, "It would be contrary to the public interest to release the records" while Romero faces prosecution. The city also would not say if those two deputies could face discipline if they didn't report Romero's alleged elevator assault.

"If there are delays or accountability that`s not happening the public deserves a clear response," insisted Calderon, who believes it's time for Denver to elect the Sheriff in order to bring more accountability to the department. Currently, Denver is one of only two counties in Colorado that doesn't elect the Sheriff. In Denver, the position is appointed by the Mayor.

Both a spokesperson for the Mayor and the Sheriff told the Problem Solvers they believe the current system is fine and that having an Independent Monitor and Citizen Oversight Board provide enough transparency to the Sheriff's Department.

As for Sgt. Romero, prosecutors have declined to press charges in the second allegation of excessive force but are still reviewing the third case.