Denver police settlements put fired officers at top of city’s payroll in 2021 | Colorado

(The Center Square) — Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen earned an estimated $237,000 as department chief in 2021.

But Pazen, who recently announcement he is retiring, was nowhere near being the city’s highest-paid employee last year.

They were two former Denver Police Department employees who filed a lawsuit for using excessive force who spent about a dozen years in the judicial system.

Randy Murr, a former corporal in the department, earned $643,597 in 2021, and Devin Sparks, a former police officer, earned $435,000 and were Denver’s highest-paid employees. Their compensation was part of a settlement reached after an appeal by the city was denied by the state Supreme Court.

Outside of the settlement, the city’s second highest-paid employee was James Caruso, who earned $357,997 as chief medical examiner and coroner. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock earned $181,670 in 2021. Denver City Council member Stacie Gilmore, who served as council chair in 2021, earned $109,375.

A division chief of police with a gross salary of $333,369 was the second highest paid employee, nearly $100,000 more than the chief of police in 2021.

Murr and Sparks initially faced suspensions for excessive force in the 2009 incident. Officers arrested two men outside a Denver nightclub. Sparks threw a man who had punched him and resisted arrest to the ground face first and hit him up to 10 times with a truncheon as the suspect lay in a fetal position.

But their cases were reopened after video of the incidents was made public. They were later fired when their stories were not corroborated by video of the incident captured by police cameras at the scene.

But the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that the department had no power to overturn its original discipline after the time to appeal that order expired.

In 2020, the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear the city’s appeal.

The Denver post reported that the city offered a $1.1 million settlement for the two officers and that in return, Murr and Sparks would never work for the city again.

City records show Murr was the highest paid city employee in 2021 with a salary of $643,597 and Sparks earned $435,000.

About James K. Bonnette

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