Under new law, Colo. LEOs lose certification for lying

By Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post via PoliceOne

DENVER — Six Colorado law enforcement officers lost their certification Friday for lying during criminal investigations or internal affairs investigations — the first time police have been decertified under a law passed in 2019.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser during a Friday meeting of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board said the decertifications were “historic” and commended the law enforcement leaders who pushed for the change.

“Public trust is achieved when law enforcement officers act with honesty and accountability. While the vast majority of peace officers honor this trust each and every day they put on their badge, unfortunately, there are some officers that do not belong in this profession,” Weiser said in a news release issued Friday afternoon.

Decertification means the officers can no longer work in Colorado law enforcement. Prior to the law change, agencies could fire officers for lying but those officers could still move on to a different agency and the POST Board could only revoke officers’ certifications for criminal conduct.

None of the six former officers — Christopher Goble of the Lone Tree Police Department, Richard Jones of the Pueblo Police Department, Christopher Tonge of the Bayfield Marshal’s Office, Russell Smith of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Jeremy Gay of the Delta Police Department and Lara Dreiling of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office — contested their decertification.

“Integrity is the cornerstone for positive relationships between law enforcement officers and their communities. When individual peace officers violate this trust, it damages that relationship for everyone in the profession. It is essential that we hold these persons accountable and ensure they will no longer serve in Colorado as certified peace officers,” POST Director Erik Bourgerie said in a news release.

At least three of the decertified officers lied during internal investigations, one lied while testifying under oath and two lied on “official criminal justice records,” according to the minutes of the meeting.

More details about each officer’s lies were not discussed during the POST Board meeting nor disclosed in the meeting minutes. Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the notices provided to the POST Board by the officers’ former agencies do not offer further details.

The six officers also will be added to a national list of decertified officers maintained by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training. The federal government does not monitor officer decertifications.

The POST Board also decertified two other police officers, Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Sara Strickland and Durango police Officer Justin Moore, for pleading guilty to crimes. Strickland pleaded guilty to felony second-degree burglary and Moore pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of assault and harassment.

All of the decertified officers will be added to a database required by a police reform bill passed this summer, which will also include officers fired for cause, officers caught lying and those who repeatedly fail to meet training standards.

(c)2020 The Denver Post