BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) – The Brighton Police Department promoted a sergeant to commander after he had been disciplined twice for violating the department’s pursuit policy.
Records obtained by the Problem Solvers show Justin Moore received the promotion – which comes with a 6% pay raise and a salary of $129,511.93 – in March. The city held a swearing-in ceremony on April 27.
“At this point, it is not appropriate for us to comment on … personnel actions,” Kristen Chernosky, a spokesperson for the city, said in an email.
A recent Problem Solvers investigation found various officers at the Brighton Police Department engaged in multiple controversial chases in 2021 that violated the department’s pursuit policies, including three pursuits that resulted in crashes involving people either being ejected from a vehicle or being killed.
“I don’t know what they base the promotion on; maybe that he’s extremely outstanding in other ways – but it does send the message, again, that advancement in the organization is not dependent on following the rules, which is a bad message,” Dr. Dennis Kenney, a criminal justice professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York said.
Kenney also co-authored a government-funded study on police pursuits.
Moore declined to speak with the Problem Solvers about the promotion or the discipline.
Moore’s first policy violation
In 2021, Moore was reprimanded twice for his involvement in unauthorized police chases.
In January, he was disciplined with written counseling after engaging in an unauthorized chase.
“I informed you that your conduct negatively impacted the organization in as much as: unnecessary exposure of innocent civilians and passersby in the area of the pursuit, increased risk of injury and danger to department employees, increased liability for engaging in pursuit outside of policy,” a supervisor wrote in January 2021.
In that chase, Moore briefly reached speeds near 80 miles per hour, according to a police department report, while he followed a suspect in a stolen vehicle. The chase lasted about one minute and 31 seconds, according to Moore’s own account.
Department policy says chases are “generally not authorized for property crimes, including stolen vehicles, absent exigent circumstances.”
No one was injured during the brief incident in which the suspect traveled over police stop sticks, a law enforcement tool used to deflate a suspect’s tires. Subsequently, the suspect was taken into custody after being trailed by the officer at a very slow speed for several minutes.
Dash camera video obtained by the Problem Solvers shows that Moore can be heard telling someone after the incident that he might be in trouble for briefly chasing the vehicle. “We’re not allowed to chase,” can be heard on his dashcam.
“Policies are kind of pointless unless you’re going to have accountability for adhering to them,” Kenney, who said Brighton’s policies are good, said.
“If they do stop sticks, I could see that the department might have concluded that the risk was not sufficiently high, and therefore just a reprimand and … counseling would be sufficient. The idea would be then that you remind the officer of what the policy is, kind of reinstate the policy, re-train on the policy, and then, you would expect that going forward there would be compliance,” he said. “Obviously, in this case, there wasn’t.”
Moore’s second infraction
In September, Moore received more written counseling discipline after he improperly authorized a 24-mile, 19-minute pursuit that resulted in a deadly crash about a mile and a half from where he called it off, according to internal police records.
Although he was commended for his management and termination of the unauthorized chase, a supervisor said Moore’s conduct negatively impacted the workplace.
“Any vehicle pursuit is inherently a high-risk venture for all involved. Once a vehicle pursuit is initiated the risk for the suspect, the officer, and the public rises exponentially. Therefore, it is imperative that the decision to initiate a pursuit is done so within the policy guidelines set forth the Brighton Police Manual,” the supervisor wrote.
“I’m not sure how you justify praising someone for supervision of something that shouldn’t have happened,” Kenney said. “That is their responsibility to prevent (it) from happening. So, there’s a disconnect there.”
An October chase that lasted fewer than two minutes – in which Moore was not involved – ended in a crash that killed two innocent people.
In that chase, an internal investigation found an officer violated policy when he opted to pursue a stolen vehicle. That officer, Charles Hundley, was fired.