Denver council approves settlement for inmate
Denver has agreed to pay $65,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former jail inmate who was punched by a deputy.
Video of the July 2014 incident involving Kyle Askin was leaked, setting off community outrage over continuing use-offorce issues in the Denver Detention Center. Jail leaders fired Deputy Thomas Ford, but he was reinstated after the Career Service Authority Board later overturned the decision. The city is still appealing that change.
The Denver City Council approved the settlement of Askin’s civil case 9-0 during its meeting Monday. Two members abstained because they did not attend city attorneys’ earlier closed-door briefing about the settlement.
Askin will receive $36,908.80, and $28,091.20 will go to law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai, according to the council’s agenda item.
The incident — fueled by video evidence — became a tipping point in efforts to reform the Denver Sheriff Department. It showed that Askin, who had been mouthing off to deputies as he sat on a bench in the booking area, stood as Ford approached. Ford swung his fist, striking Askin in the head and knocking the inmate to the floor.
Attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai credited the size of the settlement, which is relatively small compared with recent excessive-force payouts involving the jail, to city attorneys’ willingness to negotiate early in the case. It was filed in May.
“Mr. Askin appreciates Denver’s resolve to settle this matter quickly,” he said Monday. “This case is one of many that shows an ongoing systemic problem of excessive force in the detention center. Until Denver gets to the root problem that is plaguing its jail, the taxpayers of Denver can expect more settlements in the future.”
The incident helped set off a drive for reform of the department. That has included new leadership and a top-to-bottom review that led to changes such as the development of a new use-of-force policy.
Askin’s lawsuit highlighted previously unreported incidents of excessive force involving Ford. One 2010 incident, also caught on video, involved the deputy striking inmate Shaun Pack, throwing him to the floor and dragging him into a cell after Pack had complained about inmates receiving peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches on Christmas Day, according to the Askin lawsuit.
Ford wasn’t disciplined for that incident.
After reviewing the 2014 episode involving Askin, the career service board reversed the firing, finding the incident merited a 40-day unpaid suspension instead. It ordered the city to reinstate Ford and provide 18 months of back pay.
Denver public safety officials filed a still-pending appeal of that decision in Denver District Court.
“The Department of Safety maintains the position that Deputy Thomas Ford used inappropriate force during his interaction with Mr. Askin and that his termination from the Denver Sheriff Department was appropriate based on the facts and evidence,” spokeswoman Daelene Mix wrote in an e-mail Monday. “Pending the outcome of the court’s decision, Deputy Ford remains in the employment of the Denver Sheriff Department; however, he is in an assignment that does not include contact with inmates.”