Denver Sheriff deputy fired over use of force on mentally ill inmate now faces 6-day suspension

Posted at 9:17 PM, Dec 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-17 00:54:13-05

DENVER – A Denver Sheriff Department deputy who was fired over his handling of a mentally ill inmate more than two years ago has had that decision overturned, and is now only facing a six-day suspension.

Denver Deputy William Jackson, an 11-year veteran with the department, was fired back in June after he slammed the mentally ill inmate as he tried to get him in his cell, causing him to hit his head on a metal table behind him.

A discipline report obtained by Denver7 states that on Nov. 24, 2015, Jackson had spotted the inmate shoving “something shaped like a tablet into the back of his pants,” and told the inmate to give it to him.

Jackson noted the item was the cover of a Bible, but since inmates cannot keep hardcover books, Jackson considered it contraband and threw it down a corridor for later pick-up.

Some time later, the inmate asked for his Bible back as he said, “God had come down from the clouds and given him that Bible,” the discipline report states.

After a series of back-and-forth questions from the inmate to Jackson, the report states Jackson told the inmate “It’s time for you to lock in” after telling the mentally ill inmate he could either enjoy the rest of his free time or he could lock down in his cell.

In the jailhouse surveillance video, Jackson can be seen coming around the corner with the mentally ill inmate. As the deputy tries to put the inmate back in his cell, the inmate puts one hand of the doorway. Immediately after, the deputy grabs him around the neck and slams him into a metal table.

“Injuring this inmate because he wanted to keep his bible is a failure by everyone involved,” said Civil Rights Attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai. “Responsible adults should have figured out a better way,” he told Denver7.

Mohamedbhai said Denver is putting deputies in challenging situations and expecting too much when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill.

"This deputy definitely should have been disciplined, but termination seems harsh," he said.

Mohamedbhai also raised serious concerns about the mentally ill inmate in this case being served a 60-day penalty.

"The disparity in the discipline where the inmate receives ten times the discipline, shows how broken the system is," he said.

The agency’s Conduct Review Office found Jackson used inappropriate force beyond what was necessary in dealing with the mentally ill inmate.

Shannon Elwell, a civilian review administrator in the Department of Safety, said Jackson’s behavior “was an extreme and unnecessary reaction to the inmate’s minimal level of resistance, at a time when [the inmate] was not posing a threat to anyone.”

Jackson was found to have violated two rules within the Denver Sheriff Department: The first being the use of force “if it is reasonable and appropriate in relation to the threat faced to accomplish a lawful [detention-related] function. The second prohibits “inappropriate force” in dealing with a prison.

In her review, Elwell found that the conduct displayed by Jackson was a “willful and wanton disregard of departmental guiding principles," demonstrated a serious lack of character necessary to hold his position, and was “egregious misconduct substantially contrary to the expected standards of conduct.”

However, during his appeal process Career Service Hearing Officer Valerie McNaughton found, "that the appellant has demonstrated that he is capable of correcting his behavior in order to comply with department and City rules," and therefore mitigated his penalty to a six-day suspension. 

Daelene Mix, a spokeswoman for the Department of Safety sent the following statement regarding the decision:

“Based on the facts and evidence, Deputy Jackson used inappropriate force in multiple and significant ways during his interaction with the inmate, which is unacceptable to us and to the community. Our view remains that termination is warranted and we have appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the Career Service Board. We have also filed a motion to stay Deputy Jackson’s reinstatement pending the Board’s decision.”


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