Firing decision reversed for officers accused of prank

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A commission has reversed a decision to fire two Denver Police Department officers accused of pulling a prank on a co-worker by sending the Parker police to his house.

The Civil Service Commission of the City and County of Denver said in a July 12 ruling that there was not enough evidence to warrant the firing of Denver officers Josh Herrick and Thomas Sanchez for a January 2010 call to Parker dispatchers.

According to the initial findings by the Denver Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, Herrick violated department rules when he and Sanchez provided false information about fellow officer Kyllion Chafin to get the Parker Police Department to perform a welfare check on him at his home.

Herrick and Sanchez said they were requesting the check because no one had heard from Chafin and they were concerned for his health and safety, but the internal affairs bureau said the men were playing a practical joke because they believed Chafin was at his Parker home dodging process servers to avoid paying a photo radar ticket.

Herrick and Sanchez did not provide their last names or inform Parker dispatchers that they and Chafin were police officers.

Because of the nature of the call, two officers and two members of the Parker Police Department command staff responded to the home. One officer was considering breaking down the front door before it was revealed that the call was based on false information. After Chafin was found in good condition, Denver police Lt. James Henning called Parker police Capt. Jim Tsurapas to inform him that the request for the welfare check was a joke.

After an investigation, the Parker Police Department recommended charges to the 18th Judicial District, but the charges against Sanchez were later dropped. Herrick’s case resulted in a mistrial, then an acquittal. During the trial in Douglas County, Denver Police Sgt. Grady Carter testified that Herrick told him it was “a joke that had been taken too far.”

Herrick admitted to saying “this is a joke” to Carter, but said he was referring to the Denver Police Department’s response to the welfare check and the internal affairs investigation. Sanchez took a polygraph test and passed when answering “no” to a question about whether he requested the check as a prank.

Herrick and Sanchez were suspended for 30 days and subsequently fired, a decision they appealed. The civil service commission said last month that the grounds for firing Herrick for “commission of a deceptive act” were not sufficient.

The commission said the record failed to clarify the tone, inflection or intent of the conversation between Carter and Herrick. It also said there was no motive for a practical joke because the Parker police were found not to be pursuing Chafin for a photo radar ticket.

In its official decision, the commission said Herrick, Sanchez and Chafin were “not shown to be known for playing jokes on each other or on others.”

Doreen Jokerst, public information officer for the Parker police, said the department has “no opinion on the decision that was made” to reverse the Denver officers’ terminations.

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