DENVER, CO – Denver’s police union has paid for dozens of billboards across the city that urge the public to join its fight against changes to a relatively obscure rule that governs how officers are disciplined.
The billboards — 30 of them — make a flashy reference to the arcane civil-service Rule 12, which could soon get an update if city Manager of Public Safety Alex Martinez has his way.
He wants to change the way hearing officers conduct police officers’ appeals of discipline decisions to speed up the process. As it stands, a disciplined officer can request a hearing, which puts the onus on the manager to prove that the punishment is warranted. Martinez believes it should be the other way around: It should be up to the officer to show the discipline is unjust.
As the union sums up its opinion, in bold, red letters, “Guilty until proven innocent? Everyone deserves due process! Keep Rule 12!”
Another sign reads, “Gangs or cops which would you rather have on your streets?”
The billboards direct viewers to a Facebook page detailing the argument. The signs were the “quickest way to get our message out,” Police Protective Association president Nick Rogers said.
“It’s a fundamental change from due process. Citizens are afforded due process; our country was founded on that. Everyone has no issue with that premise, that you’re innocent until proven guilty.”
But that won’t apply to Denver police, under Martinez’s plan, he said. “To me, it’s a disgrace,” he said.
It’s not that simple, Martinez said.
Unlike a criminal charge or an accusation, the manager’s order of discipline is an agency determination, based on an internal- affairs probe that has taken the officer’s input into account, he said. The appeal hearing should be a review of that decision.
“It’s hardly any sort of deprivation of their rights,” Martinez said of the proposed changes, which would be up to the Civil Service Commission to approve. “That’s an exaggeration. It’s about having a standard of review instead of a burden of proof.”
It’s the first time the union has splashed its message across billboards, which Rogers said will stay up at least 30 days.
He wouldn’t say exactly how much the union spent — “there is no monetary value on our freedoms” — but Mile High Outdoor Advertising, which owns several of the signs, charges between $250 and $10,000 for a four-week rental, depending on the size and location.
“We spent enough, but it’s important to protect our members’ rights,” Rogers said.
The marketing approach is questionable, Martinez said. The signs encourage people to call his office, which “gives us the opportunity to talk people who have been pulled in. … Why they would want to give us the audience puzzles me, as far as what their strategy is.”
From The Denver Post