FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — Jason Haferman may no longer be a Fort Collins police officer but the fallout from his forced resignation continues.
Five lawsuits were filed in Larimer County District Court on Wednesday. The five plaintiffs all claim they were wrongly arrested for DUI because blood results later showed no or almost no alcohol or drugs in their system.
The lawsuits filed by attorneys Sarah Schielke and Matthew Haltzman name former police officer Haferman, the City of Fort Collins, Sergeant Allen Heaton, and an unidentified corporal, for what the lawsuit claims was a lack of supervision for Haferman.
“What we uncovered was astonishing. Nobody was reviewing what this officer was doing,” Schielke said.
The civil rights attorney based in Loveland told the Problem Solvers an audit trail she obtained of Haferman’s body camera video showed supervisors were not reviewing Haferman’s cases despite numerous negative test results that Schielke said should’ve raised red flags.
“We went and got the audit trails. Nobody was reviewing it. The first time that these people were looking at Haferman’s wrongful DUI arrests is once KDVR (FOX31) started running stories on Haferman,” she said.
Problem Solvers look into Haferman’s DUI arrests
FOX31 first interviewed Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda about Haferman on May 25, 2022, when he said his department “always conducts an internal review of any DUI arrest made
by one of its officers that has chemical test results come back negative for drugs/alcohol.”
Yet the lawsuit stated, “The Axon Evidence Audit Trail for Haferman’s BWC video from the C.B. arrest reveals that no one at FCPS ever looked at Haferman’s video until more than a year later (on May 29, 2022) when FCPS was already under fire and public scrutiny for having permitted Haferman to make so many wrongful DUI arrests for so long without any supervision or intervention.”
“I know that Haferman wasn’t the only problem in the department. I absolutely know that Haferman was not the only problem in the department,” Harris Elias, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said.
The lawsuits state that “prior to encountering Plaintiff Mr. Elias in December 2021, Haferman had effected at least 14 wrongful DUI arrests of innocent people without intervention, comment, or
reprimand from anyone at FCPS.”
Elias and his attorney find it suspicious that the names of Haferman’s supervisors were redacted from an internal affairs report into Haferman’s conduct.
“That was comically absurd to me,” Schielke said, who may add more supervisors to her lawsuit, once she learns their names through a legal process known as discovery.
Internal affairs investigation, Problem Solvers dig into Haferman arrests
An FCPS internal affairs investigative report obtained by the Problem Solvers listed at least 11 people in 2021 and 2022, who were arrested for DUI by Haferman despite blood results showing zero or trace amounts of alcohol and drugs in their blood at the time they were arrested.
Haferman resigned from the police department on Dec. 1, 2022. Swoboda had previously confirmed he intended to fire Haferman if Haferman hadn’t quit because of an internal affairs investigation that found a “failure to perform the duties” and conduct that “may cause the public to lose confidence in the police department.”
The Problem Solvers did a series of stories in 2022 about questionable arrests made by Haferman, starting with the case of Elias.
FOX31’s reporting on Elias led to the discovery of many more concerning cases of DUI arrests made by Haferman.
At that time in June of 2021, Fort Collins Police said Haferman was placed under an internal investigation and transitioned from being the department’s lead DUI officer but he wasn’t suspended until months later.
Just two days before Haferman’s two-year term as the department’s lead DUI officer ended, he arrested Chuck Mata on May 14, 2022.
Mata was handcuffed and brought to the police station for suspicion of DUI but released after he blew all zeros on a breathalyzer. His case is not among the false arrests counted by FCPS, though Mata previously told FOX31 Haferman had no probable cause to arrest him.
By the time the Problem Solvers reported on the case of Carly Zimmerman in November of 2022, Haferman had been placed on administrative leave a few weeks earlier in October of 2022.
The Zimmerman case included no blood results because Haferman claimed in his report that Zimmerman had changed her mind at the hospital and declined to take a blood test. But Haferman muted his body cam on the drive to the hospital, making it impossible to confirm his version of events.
The lawsuits note that on Sept. 1, 2022, the Larimer County district attorney sent a letter to Swoboda concerning Haferman’s integrity.
“Haferman, at minimum, has demonstrated a significant disregard for the integrity of his investigations and does not have a firm grasp of the impact of depriving our citizens of their liberty,” the letter said.
The lawsuit notes Haferman was placed on administrative leave the next day and points out that “no one at FCPS ever interviewed any of the victims of Haferman’s wrongful DUI arrests as part of their several-months-long investigation resulting in a 68-page report.”
Haferman violated body camera protocol
The lawsuits filed in state court said Haferman had a pattern of muting his body cam in violation of Colorado law and FCPS policy.
“It should be a crime for an officer to mute his body camera, ever,” Elias said, whose arrest was one of the incidents where Haferman muted his body cam for an extended period of time.
Schielke said she’s discovered at least 10 cases where Haferman muted his body cam inappropriately and five other cases where she said Haferman claimed his body cam malfunctioned or the video was somehow lost.
“This guy is not only lying in the reports but then when things aren’t looking too good in terms of the best evidence, he’s muting it or losing it or saying it’s just not functioning,” Schielke said.
The internal affairs investigation conducted by Fort Collins Police doesn’t say how many times Haferman turned off his body cam but the 68-page report does state, “in multiple cases reviewed, Officer Haferman mutes his BWC (Body Worn Camera).” It also said, “This was a routine occurrence for Officer Haferman in the BWC videos reviewed for this investigation and none of these instances are documented in his police report.”
Total number of false DUI arrests unknown, FCPS statement
“I was screaming my innocence from day one when I told them six times, I’m not under the influence, officer,” Derrick Groves, another plaintiff who was arrested by Haferman in 2022, said.
Negative blood results would later lead to charges being dismissed against Groves and so many others.
“I said, ‘I promise you, I’m not under the influence. I am getting a lawyer and there will be repercussions.’ And here we are to this day,” Groves said.
In an email, the FCPS told FOX31 its police chief hasn’t had a chance to review the lawsuit yet but added, “Obviously, with any litigation involving Fort Collins Police, Chief (Jeff) Swoboda takes it seriously, and it is imperative to know the full extent of the allegations. He intends to review the lawsuit in its entirety.”
The true number of people falsely arrested for DUI by Haferman is unknown partly because many arrest records were sealed once the cases were dismissed.
The lawsuits state, “The various wrongful DUI arrests set forth in this Complaint are thus based on very incomplete records and not meant to be a comprehensive accounting…. regarding Haferman’s wrongful and unconstitutional arrest decisions.”