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Denver police officer suspended for slapping woman who punched his arm

Posted at 7:21 PM, Dec 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-28 00:21:08-05

DENVER -- A Denver police officer will serve a ten-day suspension for slapping an intoxicated woman while on duty after she ignored his orders and punched him in the arm.

In November, the Denver Department of Public Safety suspended Officer Joseph Humphrey for ten days without pay for using “inappropriate force” during the July encounter – ordering him to begin serving the suspension on New Year’s Eve. 

According to the disciplinary order, Officer Humphrey was on duty when he saw the woman trying to cross a busy intersection while appearing to be intoxicated. The order says the woman, identified in the report by her initials A.R., “was known to Officer Humphrey because of her previous contacts with police.”

Humphrey detained the woman and removed a needle from one of her pockets and a camping hatchet that was stuffed inside her sock, then took her to Denver CARES on Cherokee Street.

According to the disciplinary order, staff in the detox center moved the woman to their “quiet room” because she was being rude, then told Officer Humphrey, “She’s getting ready to throw down.”

When Officer Humphrey went into the quiet room to intervene, the report says the woman stuffed her shoes into the toilet and refused the officer’s repeated orders to sit down. 

According to the report, video from a police body-worn camera shows the woman hit Officer Humphrey on the forearm with a closed fist. The body camera recording is then described as follows:

“Officer Humphrey then grabbed AR and slapped her on the left side of her face with an open hand. Officer Humphrey then shoved AR’s head down against the wall, pushing on it with his hands while sitting on AR with the right side of his body, as he yells ‘Dumb b---h! You don’t f---ing hit a cop! You do not hit a cop.’” 

During an interview with police department internal affairs investigators more than a week after the incident, the woman said she had been drinking “about, like, a gallon” of Schnapps that day. She also said her head still hurt from the incident. 

“He hit me or something happened… something happened cause my head still hurts,” the woman told investigators.

Officer Humphrey told internal affairs investigators that when the woman hit his arm she ripped off a chunk of a scab on his arm causing “an intense amount of pain.” He explained his use of force as a “reactionary strike, just to go slap her in the face and hold her up against the wall to get her into custody.”

In its disciplinary order, the city wrote, “The level of force utilized by Officer Humphrey was not commensurate with the threat that AR posed and was not the least amount of force that departmental policy requires. The totality of the circumstances also indicates that Officer Humphrey’s strike to AR’s face was retaliatory or punitive and not for any legitimate law enforcement purpose.” 

The disciplinary order said Humphrey could have avoided using force by simply leaving the woman in the isolation room and closing the door, or asking for help from another officer who was in the room.

When Denver7 Investigates submitted a public records request for the body camera video recording referenced in the disciplinary action, the department denied the request because it was recorded in “a medical facility where the patients have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Those privacy considerations outweigh any public purpose to be served by release of the video from within that facility.”

In 2014, Humphrey was also reprimanded in connection with an incident in which a woman sued claiming he fractured her arm trying to restrain her after officers mistakenly identified her nephew as a criminal suspect. The city settled that lawsuit earlier this year, paying out $47,500. DPD said the officer was reprimanded in that case for failing to give his name and badge number.