City of Loveland will pay Karen Garner $3M to settle federal lawsuit

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LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — The City of Loveland announced Wednesday morning that it will pay Karen Garner $3 million to settle a claim stemming from her June 2020 arrest by officers at the Loveland Police Department.

Garner, a 73-years-old who has dementia, was injured during the arrest after being accused of stealing from a Walmart.

“The settlement with Karen Garner will help bring some closure to an unfortunate event in our community but does not upend the work we have left to do. We extend a deep and heartfelt apology to Karen Garner and her family for what they have endured as a result of this arrest,” said Loveland City Manager Steve Adams. “We know we did not act in a manner that upholds the values, integrity, and policies of the City and police department, and we are taking the necessary steps to make sure these actions are never repeated.”

Garner’s family spoke to the media a few hours after the settlement was announced. Her daughter-in-law, Shannon Steward, said this decision stemmed from the family’s desire to not have this drag on through a lengthy court process.

“All the evidence in this case was going to be locked down for at least two to three years at least until that verdict came in,” Steward said.

The family members spoke about a letter they found that Garner had written shortly after her dementia diagnosis, inspiring them to move forward.

“I feel the world is getting crueler. Don’t make it any rougher for yourselves by living in the past. Look out the front window. Don’t dwell on what’s on the rear-view mirror,” Garner wrote in the letter.  

The family says the settlement will help to insure Garner gets the best care possible care.  

“(She) has good days and bad days. Just like anybody with dementia it’s basically like you’re losing them twice. You lose them through the dementia and we’re going to lose her again which hurts,” her daughter, Allisa Swartz, said.  

Even though the civil lawsuit is settles, two former officers, Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali, still face criminal charges. They were charged only after the body camera footage went viral.

“There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for what happened to Ms. Garner. We have agreed on steps we need to take to begin building back trust. While these actions won’t change what Ms. Garner experienced, they will serve to improve this police department and hopefully restore faith that the LPD exists to serve those who live in and visit Loveland,” Chief Bob Ticer stated.

The following changes were made to LPD policy and practices following Garner’s arrest:

  • An updated and improved use-of-force review process that will include faster response times and review by an assistant city attorney as well as City of Loveland Human Resources personnel.
  • Plans to launch LPD Listens tours, an opportunity for City residents to share and engage with Loveland Police Department command staff.
  • Collaboration with City Council on ways to expand and enhance LPD’s mental health co-responder program with SummitStone Health Partners.

The City of Loveland also created a Trust Commission after Garner’s arrest:

  • The independent professional standards investigation into the Karen Garner arrest led by consulting group Hillard Heintze (a Jensen Hughes company) has concluded. Although the independent investigation has ended, it is not considered complete until all internal processes have concluded, which could be several months from now. The City will release the report to the public and outline the investigation’s findings once all internal processes have been finalized. 
  • A virtual town hall/listening session led by Jensen Hughes is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. MT on Thursday, Sept. 16. This event is part of an independent operational assessment of the Loveland Police Department initiated by the City earlier this year. The consultant team will introduce themselves during the event, briefly outline the assessment’s objectives and use facilitated breakout rooms to hear all attendees’ perspectives. Feedback will inform the assessment and help the team develop recommendations on the LPD’s path forward. Click on this link to register. A second town hall will be held later this year.
  • The City is currently seeking applicants for the 16-member Ad Hoc Community Trust Commission. The deadline to apply is Sept. 12. Applications and details about the unique process and requirements for this temporary commission can be found on the City’s Boards and Commissions application website.

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