DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver Sheriff Department deputy has been fired after admitting to allowing two inmates to order Uber Eats, in which they smuggled drugs into the facility.
Deputy Derrek Peterson was fired on Friday after a lengthy investigation into whether or not he knew the two inmates, one charged with murder, were attempting to smuggle drugs into the detention center, according to a department Determination of Discipline document in the incident.
The two inmates, recognized as TL and DW, were able to smuggle drugs into the Downtown Denver Detention Center through a connection at the food delivery service. The smuggled drugs were believed to have been used by a third inmate, who attempted suicide. The inmate did survive.
Peterson stated that he was “leading with humanity” after rewarding special privileges to two inmates who were always doing extra work to keep their pod clean.
“I pass underneath a – a mural that was painted on the wall that states, ‘Lead with your humanity.’ I wondered when I would have the opportunity to do so myself,” Peterson read in a letter during his discipline meeting.
First delivery of Uber Eats
Peterson stated he gave in to the inmates who had asked if they could order food. One of the inmates explained he had a sister that worked at either Uber Eats or GrubHub and that she could drop it off.
“And again, I’m not in the right state of mind, very tired and just kind of, huh, they deserve it in a way. I guess it was, you know, a weak moment but I said yes,” said Peterson.
When Peterson went downstairs to retrieve the Uber Eats, he stated the food came in a concealed bag that had a sticker stating it wasn’t tampered with. The deputy opened the bag and saw it was Chinese food, he said it smelled and looked like Chinese food and that there was no other contraband inside. According to Peterson, he did probe through the food.
“There was no bones or sharp objects, or anything. And when I inspected the trays, I took a clean fork and I moved the stuff around, and it was food. It was 100% food. There was no foreign objects. There was no baggies. There was no lumps. There was food,” said Peterson.
Second delivery of Uber Eats
According to an interview with investigators, the inmates asked to order food again approximately a week or two after the first delivery. Peterson said that to “show them appreciation” and to lead with humanity, he let them order again.
In the second delivery, the inmates ordered Chipotle through the same contact. Again, Peterson opened the delivery and admitted the food looked and smelled like a Chipotle order. Peterson asked the inmates to unfold the burritos on their tray for inspection and admitted that they ordered Peterson his own burrito without him asking them to.
“There was nothing different about it. Three of them. One for [TL], one for [DW] and then they got the third one for me that I didn’t ask for. It was at that time is when I said, all right, you guys, this is the last time,” Peterson said in his interview.
A few weeks later, Peterson was put on investigative leave and had his phone confiscated under a search warrant. The inmate who had attempted suicide reported that a deputy was helping inmates smuggle in contraband. On Aug. 6, 2021, an investigation began.
“By allowing DW and TL to order food deliveries from outside, by which they were able to smuggle in contraband, Deputy Peterson failed to act with the highest standard of care to those placed under DSD Custody,” states the Determination of Discipline signed by Carl McEncroe, civilian review administrator at the Denver Department of Public Safety.
Throughout his interview, Peterson acknowledged he made a mistake but never believed that he was helping inmates smuggle in contraband.
“Although it is not believed that Deputy Peterson was in any way aware that DW and TL sought to smuggle in drugs, he unfortunately became an unwary tool in their scheme,” the discipline letter said.
Peterson had been with the department since 2016. His previous disciplinary history included multiple cases of misuse and abuse of leave time, along with inappropriate force, for which he received a 10-day suspension.