BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) – The Brighton Police Department is “still in the process of scheduling” formal, in-service training for police officers five months after a police chase ended in a crash that killed two innocent bystanders.
“No new formal in-service training or retraining has occurred regarding police pursuits since September,” Linda Ong, a spokesperson for the city, said in an email.
“There was department-wide training on this topic in July and August of 2021,” said Kristen Chernosky, who represents the city. “This is training we provide annually.”
A Problem Solvers investigation found the police department has been involved in three pursuits since September 2021 that ended with suspects crashing the vehicles they were driving.
In all three cases, someone was either ejected from a vehicle or killed. Internal affairs investigators found problems either with how each chase started or terminated.
The officer who started the most recent deadly chase was fired in January.
Daily training bulletins
“We have an opportunity to make our city safer, through better trainings, whether that’s driving training, whether that’s situational awareness, it’s probably all of it,” City Manager Michael Martinez said. “We’re going to do what we can to make sure that incidents like this never happen.”
Martinez, who spoke to the Problem Solvers after the Brighton police chief declined three requests for an interview, said officers are receiving “daily training bulletins” that “allow for our police officers to think about what it is they’re doing when they’re reacting to certain situations.”
When the Problem Solvers asked to review all of the pursuit-related bulletins that have been distributed to officers since September 2021, the city could only provide six PDF documents, two of which represented training bulletins that were distributed to officers within the last 10 days.
One was distributed on the day of the most recent deadly crash.
The bulletins are most often two pages and provide a hypothetical scenario followed by a reference to a policy, an analysis and a question-and-answer section.
“Officers log in to a separate website or use a mobile app to review the daily training bulletins and answer the scenario questions. Completion of these bulletins is logged through the providing website and can be tracked,” Chernosky said.
When asked if reading the bulletins and answering questions about them is mandatory, Ong referred the Problem Solvers to the department policy.
“Personnel assigned to participate in (Daily Training Bulletins) should complete each (Daily Training Bulletin) as directed by their supervisor,” according to the department policy.
Mandatory meeting following deadly incident
Ong said the police department’s deputy chief, Matt Domenico, also held a “mandatory” meeting for sworn police supervisors on October 27, 2021.
“During this meeting, Deputy Chief Domenico issued a general order which further restricted the circumstances under which Brighton Police officers were authorized to initiate or participate in a police pursuit,” Ong said in an email.
“During this meeting, the dangers to all involved, including the community and officers, associated with police pursuits were discussed in detail, as was the need for all supervisors to play an active role in managing these incidents.
“Police Department supervisors were directed to discuss this information with their respective teams and reinforce the responsibility of all sworn staff to not initiate pursuits when they are not authorized by policy.
“Supervisors were also provided information that even when circumstances would allow for a pursuit to be initiated, it is the responsibility of the officers involved, and the supervisor’s to evaluate the pursuit on an ongoing basis and immediately terminate the pursuit when the dangers involved outweigh the need to immediately apprehend the suspects,” she continued.
Martinez said the recent crash was a “tragedy on both sides.”
“I think the bodycam footage shows the human element of policing in this world that we’re in today,” he said. “You have a very minute amount of time to make decisions, and if you review the body cam footage, you’ll see how quickly our police officers have to react in certain situations.”
Martinez told the Problem Solvers he felt the police chief handled all of the chase situations “well.”
“I think if you look at each separate incident, there are certain differentiations between the circumstances there. It’s difficult to say that these are all related necessarily,” he said.
Brighton city councilor responds
“This has opened our eyes. It’s time for a public safety committee including council members, including citizens, and including police officers,” said Matt Johnston, a city councilor who heard the deadly October crash in his neighborhood as he was walking door to door.
“It was the most horrible sound I’ve ever heard in my life,” he said.
Johnston told the Problem Solvers he was unaware of Brighton’s history with chases that ended in crashes until the Problem Solvers brought it to his attention. He was also unaware that he could access the video first obtained by FOX31.
“There should not be a barrier between the public and what’s occurring with their tax dollars in their department that the city holds so dear to their hearts, because the citizens are the bosses of what we do,” he said.
Johnston said he has plans to add this topic to Tuesday’s city council agenda.
“A lot of things need to change,” he said.