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Activists demand changes in wake of Denver Police beatings

8:24 PM, Nov 17, 2010   |    comments
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The activists ordered that Denver Mayor and Governor-elect John Hickenlooper, interim Manager of Safety Mary Malatesta and Police Chief Gerry Whitman get tougher on officers accused of using excessive force.

"It is time to remind law enforcement that they are civil servants, not some kind of government-protected bullies," Art Way of the Colorado Progressive Coalition said.

The group was also showing its support for Anthony and Denise DeHerrera whose son was beaten by Denver Police during an arrest on April 4, 2009.

Video recorded by a traffic camera shows Officers Devin Sparks and Randy Murr hitting Michael DeHerrera with a weapon nine times when the weapon is only supposed to be use on people who are actively resisting arrest. The video shows Michael DeHerrera curling up into the fetal position to protect himself instead of fighting back.

The manager of safety at the time, Ronald Perea, took away one day of pay from Sparks and suspended Murr for three days after finding the officers wrote their police reports "inaccurately," but did not use excessive force.

Media coverage of the videotaped beating prompted the manager to reopen the investigation of the two officers. The investigation is still ongoing.

Anthony DeHerrera, Michael's father and a police officer in Pueblo, says he calls the mayor, FBI, the police chief and internal affairs weekly, but he never gets a reply.

"Throughout this one year, seven months and 13 days, we've had no communication other than when I call and bug them every week," Anthony DeHerrera said.

Anthony DeHerrera has been an officer in Pueblo for 22 years. He says in his department, internal affairs must complete an investigation within 90 days. In Denver, the DeHerreras have waited for justice 559 days and counting.

"There's no way to explain what I've gone through, what we've gone through as a family. It just breaks my heart," Denise DeHerrera said.

It has made her husband seriously re-think his choice of profession.

"I almost quit being an officer. It's called into question my view of the justice system," Anthony DeHerrera said.

The Pueblo officer says something like this would never happen in his city.

"I know I would have been fired right away, as soon as that video came out. I've been told by my commanders I would have been fired," he said.

Anthony DeHerrera says the videotape of his son is now being used by other law enforcement agencies as a training tool on what not to do.

"If everybody else can see it, why can Chief Whitman not see it? Why can't the mayor see it? Why can't the manager of safety see it? Why has it been a year, seven months and 13 days for justice for my son?" he said.

The activist group delivered postcards signed by activists and some city council members to Hickenlooper's office on Wednesday. He is out of the office this week spending time with his family.

In addition to asking that complaints of excessive force be resolved within 90 days, the activists want officials to improve communication with the individuals making the complaints and ask that more officers be charged criminally for assaulting civilians without cause.

The police department did not return calls from 9NEWS for comment about the community activists' demands.

If you have any news tips, please e-mail investigative reporter Deborah Sherman at Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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