Independent monitor slams Denver Sheriff’s Department, calls for civilian control

DENVER -- The 2015 death of Michael Marshall from injuries at the Denver Jail led to the city's biggest payout ever -- $4.65 million to his family.

Denver's independent monitor has made a number of recommendations to prevent a repeat -- recommendations the Department of Public Safety doesn't seem eager to embrace.

One of the recommendations is to put the Internal Affairs Bureau under civilian control. Currently, the Internal Affairs Bureau is part of the Denver Sheriff Department.

RELATED: Independent review of Michael Marshall death

The report reveals that Internal Affairs originally recommended closing the Marshall case without holding anyone responsible for his death.

The jailhouse video from Nov. 11, 2015, shows deputies trying to subdue Marshall during a psychotic episode.

A homeless transient known to have mental health issues, Marshall was in jail on a $100 bond for trespassing.

The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner blamed Marshall's death on "complications from positional asphyxia ... due to physical restraint by law enforcement."

Two deputies were suspended for inappropriate use of force and a captain was suspended for failure to supervise.

But a hearing officer overturned all three suspensions and the city is appealing the decision to the full Career Service Board.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office declined to file any charges in the case.

Still, the independent report shows Internal Affairs originally said no one did anything wrong.

The independent monitor objected at the time and pointed out the Internal Affairs Bureau mostly relied on Denver Police Department reports.

Police were looking at criminal conduct and found none.

But the independent monitor says the Internal Affairs Bureau is supposed to look at policy violations such as inappropriate use of force and should have conducted its own interviews.

In the lengthy report, the independent monitor said deputy Brett Garegnani's 16-day suspension was too light. And three sergeants who watched the interaction and did nothing should have been suspended like the captain.

The report also reveals that six weeks before the criminal investigation was over, a Denver sheriff's sergeant recommended Garegnani for the department's Life Saving Award even though Marshall died.

The report says the Internal Affairs Bureau tried to shortcut the investigation and should now be placed under a civilian director to win back public trust.

The independent monitor says a $4.65 million settlement should be proof there was wrongdoing.

In a four-page response, Deputy Director of Public Safety Jess Vigil wrote "neither the Internal Affairs investigation or the disciplinary decisions that followed were mishandled."

Vigil said Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman is open to the idea of a civilian director for the Internal Affairs Bureau, but said the Marshall case doesn't provide a reason to do so.

The sheriff's department had a civilian director for internal affairs in 2014 but he only lasted one year.