From The Denver Post: As a Los Angeles police officer, David Guiterman shoved a handcuffed homeless man into a squad car and leaned in to drench his face with pepper spray.
Video of the incident showed Guiterman closing the car’s door, a move that cut off ventilation and created what critics later called a “gas chamber” of horror. The mentally ill suspect pleaded for help, his face twisted in pain.
Despite Guiterman’s past in California, which also included a $50,000 settlement of an excessive-force lawsuit, he found work across state lines.
He ended up in Colorado, a state that does relatively little to keep cops with blemished records from being rehired in law enforcement. Soon Guiterman was causing controversy again after his new employer, the Vail Police Department, arrested him on charges of domestic violence and stalking.
Colorado is vulnerable to officers such as Guiterman coming from other states seeking to resurrect their careers, according to experts. Only a criminal conviction on a felony charge or certain misdemeanors automatically bar a cop from getting hired in law enforcement in Colorado, a lesser standard than in many states.
But the extent of the problem is unknown, in Colorado and nationally.
“We know it happens,” said Roger Goldman, a nationally recognized expert on officer misconduct who has helped write laws establishing state police review panels. “But we don’t know how frequently it happens. Anecdotally, we know there have been high-profile cases of it.”
He noted that malpractice litigation and adverse licensing actions are tracked federally for physicians, but no such system exists for law enforcement officers, who have the power to take a life and make arrests.
“We have it for docs but not for cops,” Goldman said. “That’s a problem.”
The Denver Post made multiple requests for a state database of certified and decertified law enforcement officers from the state attorney general’s office to research the backgrounds of those trained in other states. The office refused to release key information to enable that analysis.
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