My name is Eric Winfield and I am a victim of police brutality by the hands of three Denver police officers. I have recently settled out of court for a sum of $40,000. The Mayor and City council might remember me better as “liability claim” Resolution 107, Series of 2010.
Two and a half years I have fought tooth and nail for a bit of justice and I believed that they would want me to speak, to hear how this happened and what went wrong. To city council, I was as about as important to them as a stop sign on 46th and Lincoln. I tried to speak at the City council meeting last week and according to their bylaws, signing up to speak takes place at recess which is about half an hour into the meeting. Apparently, Jeanne Faatz of district 2 didn’t really feel that the settlement awarded me was “meritorious” by her own words. City council adjourned before recess despite very obvious signs that I had wished to speak. Not counting city council, there were about eight people outside of my family in that cavernous room. I decided on my way to the meeting tonight to write this letter to Denver instead. City council had made up their mind they don’t want to hear me and I am done wasting my time in courtrooms and conference halls.
I was originally charged with a felony, which was shortly thereafter reduced to a misdemeanor and then finally all charges were dropped without an explanation. I have never been in trouble with the law outside a few speeding tickets. I grew up in Colorado Springs and went to high school where my mother was employed as an art teacher. I ran cross country and track and never got in trouble. I graduated Colorado State and became a hardworking, taxpaying Denver citizen.
However, according to police statements I was a drunken belligerent fighter who was willing to fight anyone who came near me. Police claimed I immediately took a fighting stance and swung wildly. I was thrown to the ground and repeatedly punched, kicked and kneed in the groin. I received two black eyes, two lacerations which required ten stitches, cracked and chipped teeth, bruised ribs and permanent nerve damage to my hand from their handcuffs. When I was told I was drunk and belligerent I asked repeatedly for a blood draw so they could test my blood alcohol content (BAC). They took my blood and Denver Health charged me for it, however no BAC was ever recorded. Shouldn’t this be mandatory in a case where alcohol is the suspected cause of my drunken, belligerent state?
No third party was interviewed at the scene and my friends who I was with were forcibly told to leave or they would be arrested too. One police officer yelled “you can give a statement in jail”. One of my friends is a microbiologist and the other has his top secret clearance from the Department of Defense. Not one of us has ever had any trouble with the law. I was not involved in any disturbance, fight or altercation vocal or physical. We were a mere 20 feet from our parked car. I was not intoxicated. I had a few drinks while watching the Rockies in the World Series and admitted as much. However, contrived from that statement, their defense was clear: Eric Winfield was drunk and belligerent. Since I had to provide the burden of proof, without a BAC I could not prove I wasn’t. I am sure it was just accidentally never recorded, not thrown out when the results showed I was not intoxicated.
I ask again, shouldn’t my BAC be mandatory in a case where alcohol is the suspected cause of my drunken, belligerent state?
I have never had any problems with police officers, nor authority of any kind. My good friend and also my cousin are both police officers. I know their job is mostly a thankless one, and a dangerous one at that. That does not give the right to do sloppy work. These officers in question did not do their job correctly. I weigh 155-160 pounds soaking wet and the one officer that claims “could not control me” weighs in at 320. Not to mention the other two officers, one of whom is a undefeated cage fighter and 280 himself. More than 750 pounds of police verses me, 160 pound distance runner me. If they thought I was in the club that they now admit I was not, couldn’t they have asked me and my two friends where I was coming from?
I have waited for two and a half years for some accountability. Two and a half years I have gone to hearings, depositions, conferences and more hearings. Two and a half years and all I have as an explanation is wrong place, wrong time. Wrong place, wrong time to me is a fender bender. It not an encounter with three Denver police officers. Over this two and a half year time period we have sent hundreds of letters to Mayor Hickenlooper, the governor, the citizens oversight board and city council. We received a handful of responses; a grand total of two. No one cared.
As a taxpayer in Denver I am angry. Angry for the amount we pay these three police officers, we cannot even expect three minutes of quality police work. I am angry that instead of accountability and understanding, we the taxpayers have had to pay two and a half years of legal fees and court costs. While I settled for 40k, I am willing to bet the actual expense passed down to the taxpayer is more than triple that figure.
Without proper exposure to these types of stories, nothing will change. Without some sort of discipline passed down, nothing will change. Without public outcry nothing will change. Internal affairs is not working. The fox cannot guard the hen house. There is no clear path to go down when police abuse happens, and like so many I thought that this could never happen to me. I would read something in the newspaper and think “surely they must have done something”.
I was abused at the hand of these three Denver police officers. Yours and my police officers.
I never realized how often and how widespread this problem is. Pay attention and you can see it happens all the time. Next time it could by your son or daughter, brother or sister. It could happen to anyone at anytime without any more of an explanation than I received. I was beaten, charged and thrown in jail. When its your word verses theirs, how are you going to prove your innocence? This could happen to anyone, at any time. This is not matter of merit, more a matter of accountability and responsibility.
I never wanted to be a spokesperson for police brutality, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.