Cou­ple sues po­lice, health work­ers

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kirk Mitchell Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206, kmitchell@den­ver­post.com or @kirk­mitchell or den­ver­post.com/cold­cases

Den­ver Bron­cos sea­sonticket holder Michael Cor­nell had just watched a 3024 come­back over­time vic­tory of his team against Tom Brady and the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots last sea­son when Den­ver po­lice took is­sue with his tipsy be­hav­ior.

Al­though the of­fi­cers didn’t charge ei­ther him or his girl­friend, Lau­ren Ro­driguez, with a crime, they de­tained them and hauled them over to the Den­ver CARES detox cen­ter.

Now the cou­ple is su­ing po­lice and health care work­ers, in­clud­ing po­lice Chief Robert White and Dr. Bill Bur­man, chief executive of­fi­cer of Den­ver Health Med­i­cal Cen­ter, claim­ing po­lice and care work­ers col­luded to vi­o­late their due process rights by de­tain­ing them il­le­gally, the civil law­suit filed Tues­day by Den­ver at­tor­ney Elis­a­beth Owen says. Cor­nell also ac­cuses po­lice of ex­ces­sive force by al­legedly bash­ing his head against a squad car.

Den­ver po­lice and Den­ver CARES staff “de­tained Mr. Cor­nell and Ms. Ro­driguez as part of their pol­icy and cus­tom of un­law­fully com­mit­ting in­tox­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als who do not pose a threat to them­selves or oth­ers to the Den­ver CARES fa­cil­ity,” the law­suit says.

Cor­nell and Ro­driguez are seek­ing “nom­i­nal” com­pen­satory and puni­tive da­m­ages and at­tor­neys fees against the po­lice department and Den­ver CARES. They also want a ju­di­cial or­der pro­hibit­ing de­fen­dants from ar­rest­ing them with­out ad­e­quate due process pro­tec­tions.

Den­ver po­lice have not yet been served with the law­suit, Doug Schep­man, Den­ver po­lice spokesman said in a news re­lease.

“The department will gladly ad­dress any pub­lic con­cerns re­gard­ing this mat­ter when ap­pro­pri­ate,” Schep­man wrote.

The law­suit says that in or­der to off­set the cost of pro­vid­ing detox­i­fi­ca­tion and drug and al­co­hol treat­ment to in­di­gents in­clud­ing home­less peo­ple, Den­ver po­lice and Den­ver CARES fol­low a pol­icy in which they il­le­gally round up in­tox­i­cated peo­ple “they be­lieve have the means to pay” and haul them to the detox cen­ter. Po­lice de­tain peo­ple “en masse” who are “in­tox­i­cated legally” but not danger­ous in Lower Down­town on weekend nights and Den­ver sports venues, the law­suit says.

But in do­ing so, the city is vi­o­lat­ing Colorado’s emer­gency com­mit­ment statute in part be­cause they do not have prob­a­ble cause to de­tain them un­der the guise of con­sen­sual med­i­cal treat­ment. the law­suit says.

“Den­ver CARES treat­ment un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances is any­thing but con­sen­sual. First, if an in­di­vid­ual is truly so in­tox­i­cated that he can­not be at home or in the com­mu­nity, he can­not law­fully con­sent to med­i­cal treat­ment. Se­cond, Den­ver CARES com­mit­ments are made un­der threat of ar­rest for non­con­sent, thereby ren­der­ing con­sent to be made un­der duress,” the law­suit says.

On Sun­day, Nov. 29, 2015, as they were leav­ing Sports Au­thor­ity Field at Mile High, of­fi­cers asked Cor­nell how in­tox­i­cated he was, the law­suit says. Cor­nell ad­mit­ted that he had been drink­ing but added that he was not driv­ing home.

The of­fi­cers hand­cuffed him and slammed his head against the side of their pa­trol car, the law­suit says.

Po­lice took Cor­nell and Ro­driguez to the detox cen­ter at 1155 Chero­kee St., while threat­en­ing to ar­rest them if they did not co­op­er­ate. Al­though Cor­nell re­fused ser­vices, staff placed him in a dor­mi­tory room with cots and Ga­torade at 11:15 p.m., the law­suit says. Cor­nell and Ro­driguez were held un­til the fol­low­ing morn­ing and forced to pay $325 for treat­ment, the law­suit says.

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