Denver, CO- A report from CBS Denver has televised the story of Brent Miller, a former internal affairs investigator for the Denver Sheriff Department who is claiming he was terminated after refusing to destroy a videotape showing questionable treatment of a prison inmate.
Miller had been working for the Denver Sheriff Department as a civilian internal affairs investigator after working at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office in Brighton, CO for 26 years. Miller was assigned to investigate several complaints that had been filed by a prison inmate named Christopher Colbruno, including investigating a complaint involving Colbruno that had been filed by Denver Health Medical Center.
Colbruno was sent to the hospital for medical treatment, and at some point during the transport by deputies Colbruno defecated in his prison uniform. Colbruno’s clothes were removed before entering the hospital and he was walked by deputies down the hospital’s hallway naked.
According to CBS Denver, Denver Health Medical Center filed a complaint with the Sheriff Department because personnel felt that walking Colbruno through the hospital naked was inhumane. Miller and another investigator went to the hospital on May 11 and they were given a copy of a video tape that showed Colbruno in the hospital.
Miller said that Captain Paul Ortega, the leader of Sheriff Department’s internal affairs, came to him and inquired about the tape.
“He told me to, don’t upload it, because they’re making it go away. I said, ‘who is they?’ and he said the sheriff. And then he told me to get rid of the video,” said Miller.
“Do not upload it, get rid of the video,” Miller said he was instructed, “and I immediately told him right there it’s not ethical to get rid of evidence.”
Miller decided to hand the video over to another investigator. He was notified the following day, May 12, that he had been fired. “I was told I was being terminated by the Denver Sheriff Department because I was too opinionated and they wanted to go in a different direction,” said Miller. The termination letter was signed by Elias Diggins, the department’s Sheriff who Miller claims gave Ortega the order to approach Miller to have the tape destroyed.
Stephanie O’Malley, Denver’s executive director of public safety, wrote that “I have directed the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Denver Police Department to investigate allegations of misconduct by command officers in the Denver Sheriff Department.”
Regarding Miller’s termination, O’Malley stated that “I am able to verify that Senior Investigator Miller did not pass his employment probation with the City of Denver due to performance issues unrelated to the allegations referenced above.”
Miller argued that his assessment record is “solid” and there have been no previous problems. “I believe I was fired because I stood up to what I perceived to be unethical behavior and corruption by the Denver Sheriff’s Department and the Manager of Safety’s Office,” he said.
Miller has since hired an attorney who intends to file a suit against Denver Sheriff Department claiming that Miller’s termination was retribution.
According to The Denver Post, Denver’s independent monitor stated in December 2013 that “dozens of inmate-generated reports of abuse and mistreatment were ignored or discarded” and that this was done partially to reduce the number of overall complaints.