Cops Admit Poor Decision in Destroying Evidence

Cops Admit Poor Decision in Destroying Evidence
Posted by FoM on August 26, 2000 at 10:17:22 PT
By Howard Pankratz, Denver Post 
Source: Denver Post
Two decorated Denver police officers on Friday admitted to poor judgment in destroying evidence from more than 80 drug cases. Kurt Gary Peterson, 37, and Danny Lee Alverson, 49 - four-year partners in the gang unit - pleaded guilty to abuse of public records and second-degree official misconduct.Their lawyer, David Bruno, told county court Judge Kathleen Bowers his clients thought destroying the evidence was the best way to serve the public.
They could spend more time patrolling the streets rather than running back to headquarters to book evidence that likely would never be used in court, Bruno said.But Bowers said the situation "confirms people's worst fears of the police," that they always assume a suspect is guilty and that evidence is of secondary importance.She sentenced Peterson and Alverson to one year of unsupervised probation and 80 hours of public service. They could have received a maximum sentence of two years in jail and a $5,500 fine.Bowers told the officers she wants them to address high school students about the Constitution, the concepts of burden of proof, witness credibility and "how you keep the government from getting out of control."Bruno said the gang officers often encountered four or five people daily with drug paraphernalia or small amounts of marijuana.The officers would write tickets ordering the suspects into court, then destroy the marijuana or paraphernalia. They didn't want to take the 45 to 60 minutes necessary to drive to headquarters and book any evidence into the evidence room, Bruno said."They have admitted their faults and wrongdoings," Bruno said. "They made a poor decision. They came to that decision on the basis of the fact that in their years of experience they have never seen one of these cases go to trial."In the vast, vast majority of these cases, the defendant pleads guilty to the offense and is fined and these officers are never taken off the street" to testify."If they followed the procedure - which they should have done - of driving downtown every day, it would have taken them out of service for approximately five of their eight hours every day," Bruno said.Prosecutor Diane Balkin argued for the light sentences."To their credit, they both came forward and were very forthright about what they had done," Balkin said.The public records charge is a misdemeanor and the official misconduct charge a petty offense.The officers remain on duty but have been transferred from the gang unit. Internal administrative proceedings are pending.Bruno said Alverson, a 28-year police veteran, has received the department's Distinguished Service Cross, three merit awards and multiple community service awards.He said Peterson, an officer for 13 years, received the department's Medal of Valor, Distinguished Service Award and merit awards.Bruno said the two officers compared their situation to police who find people drinking in a park, write a ticket and then empty the liquor bottle.Balkin said the officers never converted the drugs for "their own use or any other use." "They clearly destroyed it, threw it down the drain," Balkin said.The problem was discovered after city prosecutors learned no evidence existed to support charges in some drug cases. Five drug prosecutions had to be dismissed.Published: August 26, 2000 Source: Denver Post (CO)Copyright: 2000 The Denver PostContact: letters denverpost.comAddress: 1560 Broadway, Denver, CO 80202Fax: (303) 820.1502Website: Article: DA Probes Charges That Cops Destroyed Evidence Police Archives:
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Comment #1 posted by Dan B on August 27, 2000 at 21:19:07 PT:
One would be lucky to be caught by these guys.
"Their lawyer, David Bruno, told county court Judge Kathleen Bowers his clients thought destroying the evidence was the best way to serve the public."I agree. I wish every cop would follow suit. Destroy that evidence! Please, by all means. It would mean a great deal to those facing charges of possession of an illegal substance or paraphernalia to keep this practice going. These cops should be given a medal for helping their fellow citizens escape stupid laws.Of course, they shouldn't be confiscating marijuana to begin with. But this is certainly a step in the right direction. 
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