Denver deputy suspended for not removing used syringe that ended up sticking co-worker

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DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver sheriff’s deputy just completed a 15-day suspension for not removing a used syringe from an arrestee’s property bag that ended up poking a civilian employee at the Downtown Detention Center.

Deputy Andria Sparer was given a 30-day suspension according to a May 6 discipline letter obtained by the Problem Solvers through a public records request. 

Sparer only had to serve half of the suspension, as long as she stays out of trouble for the next two years. Otherwise, she will have to serve the other 15 days.

The incident happened on December 1, 2020 when syringes and other prohibited items were placed in an inmate’s property during booking.

A property technician for the sheriff’s department was gathering property for an inmate, (identified only by the initials M.M. in the discipline letter) when he was stuck by an uncapped needle after picking up the property bag. 

According to the discipline letter, the needle appeared used and had dark residue inside of the syringe. Inside the bag there was an additional needle, three jars of methadone, one large bottle of marijuana, and one glass pipe and a torch. 

None of the items should have been accepted or transported to the facility per department policy.

The inmate was initially arrested at the at the Lindsey-Flanigan courthouse by two deputies who searched M.M. and discovered his drug paraphernalia. Instead of removing it, they simply placed the items in a property bag to be transported with the inmate to the detention center.

The two deputies later told internal affairs investigators they meant to remove the drug paraphernalia during the booking process but got distracted by doing paperwork and forgot the items had never been removed.

That’s when the property bag reached Deputy Sparer at the detention center who was in charge of documenting property possessions for inmate’s during the intake process. 

During her internal affairs interview, Deputy Sparer said, “Policy-wise it should not have reached me to begin with. Policy-wise, I saw that there were quite a few things in there that should not have been in there.”

Later in her interview Deputy Sparer acknowledged, “There’s no excuse for what I did but it was towards the end of the week. I had already worked 60-some hours. I was ordered that day. It was mandatory overtime. I didn’t want to be there but I got ordered. It’s either you know, I was- I was threated that if I didn’t stay I’d be written up. So, you know, I wasn’t- I was tired. I was very tired. It was Thanksgiving, I was – I hadn’t seen my family. I haven’t seen my family in eight, nine months. I can’t see my dad due to COVID-19.”

She would also admit that despite noticing contraband items, she did not properly dispose of them, or alert any command staff as to their presence.

A few days later Deputy Sparer would apologize to Sheriff Elias Diggins after learning a civilian employee had been stuck with one of the needles.

The discipline letter notes the civilian employee who was pricked by this needle may have been exposed to any number of communicable diseases.

The letter goes to state that there is no information to indicate whether the employee has suffered any medical complications but added “the mental and emotional toll this situation has had on this individual is immeasurable.”

Deputy Sparer’s suspension began May 16, 2021 and ended June 3, 2021. She signed a stipulation agreeing to her punishment and waiving any right to appeal.

The letter does not state if the two other deputies who originally arrested M.M. and failed to remove the drug paraphernalia, faced any discipline for their failures to dispose of the contraband.

Deputy Sparer has been employed with the Denver Sheriff Department since September 10, 2012.

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