Denver jail deputies fired in inmate abuse cases

Photo: Deputy chokes inmateThe Denver Department of Safety has fired two sheriff’s deputies, one for using 'inappropriate force’ against inmates and another for misconduct.

In announcing the terminations Tuesday, the department said it “takes incidents of inappropriate use of force very serious.”

“We expect deputies to abide by departmental use of force policies and to treat inmates with dignity and respect,” said Executive Director of Safety, Stephanie O’Malley.

The two officers are Sheriff Deputy Thomas Ford and Sheriff Deputy Edward Keller.

Keller's firing comes more than three years after jail cameras captured him choking former inmate Jamal Hunter, who had sought medical attention for injuries suffered when other inmates attacked him. Hunter says another deputy ignored his screams during the July 2011 attack. Last month, the Denver City Council approved a $3.25 million settlement with Hunter.

For his part, Deputy Keller told law enforcement officials that he had asked Hunter to "lock down" multiple times before the incident and that he felt threatened.

"With no personal feelings toward this inmate, or any other for that matter, I reacted the best way I could," Keller says.

In the other case, Ford was captured on surveillance cameras punching an inmate in July. Prosecutors previously announced they wouldn't file charges against Ford because a jury would probably find the use of force appropriate.

Ford defended his actions in a statement to law enforcement officials:

"I understand how this incident and subsequent video looks. It doesn't look good and that is from the outside looking in but no use of force, when the use of force is required, does look good," Ford says.

The department justified the firing of the two men this way:

Deputy Keller is terminated for his assault on Mr. [Jamal] Hunter and his willful disregard of the guiding principles to provide for the care, safety, and security of inmates. His egregious misconduct is unacceptable and unbefitting the title of Deputy Sheriff.

Deputy Thomas Ford is terminated in a separate incident for using inappropriate force against an inmate while he was in the custody of the Sheriff Department. The Department of Safety determined Deputy Ford struck the inmate in the face with a closed fist at a time when he posed no credible threat and subsequently kicked the inmate while he was on the ground. Deputy Ford’s conduct was found to violate the Department’s use of force policy in several respects.