First Los Angeles, now Denver.
More than 500 people were wrongly imprisoned in Denver’s jails over seven years, with some spending weeks incarcerated or pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit before authorities realized they nabbed the wrong person, a federal court filing shows.
Civil-rights lawyers suing the city and county of Denver assert the documented mistaken-identity arrests “are the tip of the iceberg” and are an undercount of the true magnitude of the problem.
In one case a black man spent nine days in jail after he was arrested on a warrant for a white man wanted on a sex-crimes arrest warrant.
In another, authorities arrested an 18- year-old when they were searching for a man 30 years older.
A white man was hauled in even when the suspect actually was an American Indian who was nearly a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. He wasn’t released until almost a month had passed and not until the victim of the crime alerted authorities at a court hearing that they had the wrong suspect . . .
“Denver’s approach to this pervasive problem is to put its head in the sand,” the ACLU said in the motion asking the judge to rule on behalf of four individuals suing the city for wrongful arrests. Three others represented by the ACLU already have reached settlements with the city.
The ACLU, in the motion, cites a 2010 report by the city auditor’s office that blasted the city for having an inadequate system for tracking arrest identity issues.
“We cannot improve what we do not measure,” that city audit reported.
Despite the city’s lack of a comprehensive system to track mistaken- identity arrests, the ACLU identified 503 such cases from 2002 into 2009 by combing through orders issued by judges, internal affairs records, arrest warrant logs and jail records. The ACLU maintains that many more cases exist but the city’s lack of a robust tracking system makes it impossible to get an accurate count.