AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - A CBS4 Investigation has found an Aurora police officer pulled over a drunk woman, but after she indicated she was friends with the police chief, the officer turned off his body camera, gave the woman a ride home and she was never charged with a DUI or any other crime, even though her breath alcohol indicated she was more than twice the limit for DUI. And although the officer was found to have violated department policy, records show he received no discipline for providing preferential treatment to the woman.
"This indicates a culture of corruption," said Denver defense lawyer David Lane, who frequently sues police departments for misconduct. "If that was anyone else, the cuffs would have been slapped on and they would have gone to jail."
Lane said wryly, "I was not aware of this 'catch and release' program by the Aurora Police Department."
The case in question just recently came to light through a CBS4 open records request.
According to a redacted internal affairs case obtained by CBS4, Aurora Officer Ryan Marker pulled the woman over on Jan. 21, 2017, after he saw her weaving near South Buckley Road and East Floyd Avenue. He said as he approached the driver's side of the woman's car, he could see she was on her phone, texting the police chief.
"He observed the name and picture of the person she was texting and noted it was (Chief Nick Metz)," notes the internal affairs investigation. The woman indicated she was friends with Metz.
"He made the decision to turn off his body-worn camera until he could confirm or refute her claim.
The report goes on to say Marker attempted to call Metz but couldn't reach him. The officer had the woman take a portable breath test which indicated a breath alcohol level of .19, more than twice the legal limit for DUI in Colorado.
"He decided to drive her home and release her to her husband," according to the internal affairs investigation.
Marker did not arrest her or write any kind of report. He told investigators Metz gave him no direction on what to do. The following day, Marker said he did speak with Metz who told him the woman was an acquaintance but not a close friend. Metz went on to tell Marker "that if he had pulled over his girlfriend, children, wife, mother etc., he, (Metz) expected him to arrest them for DUI and not give them special treatment."
Metz initiated an internal affairs investigation into what happened which looked into a potential violation of the department's rules about using body worn cameras and into traffic enforcement actions. The investigation concluded Officer Marker had violated a single department regulation about using body worn cameras even though the investigation itself found, "Officer (Marker) had probable cause to arrest(the woman) but chose not to due to the circumstances surrounding this stop. You are hereby notified that any further violations of the above directive will result in a greater discipline" reads the report obtained by CBS4. The April 5, 2017 document does not indicate Marker received any actual punitive discipline aside from that warning.
"When police investigate police," said Lane, "It typically works out well for the police."
When contacted by CBS4, Chief Metz would only say that he had recused himself from the investigation and that he was not responsible for the disciplinary decision. Metz declined to comment further on the case.
Marker was part of the DUI enforcement team for the Aurora Police Department and received the Mothers Against Drunk Driving 2014 Directors award, noting that the previous year he made more than 500 DUI related arrests. At the time, the Aurora police department said "Officer Marker was also recognized for his efforts to educate the community about the danger of driving while drunk or high." Officer Marker's commitment and efforts to keep drunk and high drivers off of our roadways has made Aurora a safer place for its residents CBS4 contacted Officer Marker via text and email but he did not respond to those messages.
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