Public employee union defends Denver cop who was fired for driving drunk at 143 mph

posted at 8:20 pm on December 29, 2011 by Tina Korbe

On June 17, 2010, Denver police officer Derrick Curtis Saunders was arrested for speeding and driving under the influence. Before he was pulled over, he was driving at 143 mph in a 55-mph zone. That’s 88 miles an hour more than the speed limit. His blood-alcohol level was 0.089 percent, slightly higher than the 0.08 legal limit.

Appropriately, the Denver Police Department dismissed him. (A judge also sentenced him to five days in jail, fined him $300 and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service.) Now, Saunders would like his job back — and the Denver Police Protection Association stands ready to help him.

Saunders — with the help of the union — filed an appeal to the Denver Civil Service Commission to request his job back. The Denver Post reports:

Saunders’ appeal to the Denver Civil Service Commission asserts that Martinez’s findings and penalties are “unfounded and/or unsupported by the facts” and violate principles of fundamental fairness.

The penalty is “disproportionate to the offenses alleged and/or is excessive so as to be punitive rather than corrective in nature,” according to the appeal, filed by the Denver Police Protective Association’s lawyers.

Nick Rogers, the union’s president, didn’t return a call for comment.

This is so patently absurd that I barely know what to say about it. Is it a union’s job to protect its members from ever bearing the consequences of poor behavior? Apparently so, as not even breaking the law seems to qualify as grounds for the dismissal of a public employee union member. (Consider, too, that the man in question was himself a police officer, whose very job is to uphold the law.) The union mentality seems to be: Members should be able to be not only lazy or ineffective but even negligent and irresponsible and still keep their jobs. The worst part: Just as was the case before he was fired, if Saunders is reinstated, it’ll be taxpayers who pay his salary.

This kind of nonsense helps to explain why unions are on the cusp of losing all credibility.


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I thought I recognized this fine public servant’s name. Check this out:

http://denver.cbslocal.com/2010/07/23/dpd-mcmenacing-officer-arrested-again/

I got to give it to these union goons, they damn sure stick together.

bruntdog on December 30, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Tina could have taken 30 seconds to educate herself before posting the story, but then you all wouldn’t get to be so outrageously outraged about eeeeeeevil public employee unions. Wouldn’t want to deprive you of a moment of self- righteous indignation, after all.

Dukeboy01 on December 29, 2011 at 9:09 PM

I assume you’re a public union member yourself, someone that we we pay over $100K per year to to spend eight hours a day smoking dope and downloading porn.

The difference between Tina and yourself, of course, is that she (and the rest of us) are outraged by the fact that this police officer who so flagrantly violated the law will get his job back, along with back pay, damages, etc. that will come out of our pockets, and he’ll go right back to getting drunk and going almost three times the posted speed limit on the roads. And if he happens to kill himself or someone else the next time, oh well. Us taxpayers will clean that mess up too.

You, and the rest of your union buddies, though, cheer this kind of behavior. You’re really “sticking it to The Man,” after all, just like you when you go out and drink off a six pack on your three-hour lunch break.

Gator Country on December 30, 2011 at 10:48 AM

The Crown Vic, nor the Caprice never hit 150mph. Just before I retired we switched to the Crown Vic. The Crown Vic’s we slower than our Caprice’s. The top speed we ever hit in chases with the Caprice were between 125-130mph.

Conservative4Ever on December 30, 2011 at 7:06 AM

I’m curious – if you never got above 130 – was that a limitation of the car or just policy based road and traffic conditions? I’ve known quite a few cops over the years, and my impression was the police versions of any of the cars had very impressive performance capabilities.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 10:56 AM

OK, two things:

The car –

I owned a couple of Austin Healey 3000′s back in the day and I took both of them over 140. The first one, a 1960, had an electric de Havilland overdrive unit which operated on both third and fourth gears. The second one was a 1966 which though it didn’t have the OD, it had a longer final drive ratio and an additional two-barrel carburetor. I also had an Porsche 911 a few years later which would easily reach 140. Oh, and I had a 4.2 litre E-type Jaguar which could top that speed as well. Infiniti makes some substantial performance cars – I see that several G-series models have a listed top speed at Whatcar.com of 149.

On to the union:

Unions, as despicable as I think they are, do have an obligation to represent their members, no matter the circumstances. It’s known as a ‘duty of fair representation’. Since the law considers the union as the employee’s legal ‘agent’, the law also considers that as agents they don’t get to pick and choose who they represent. People regularly sue unions for not representing their interests properly, so in that regard unions have little choice but to represent their members.

The question is whether they’re willing to pursue the matter through all appeals, arbitration and/or mediation, etc. While unions have a duty to represent everyone, they don’t have any obligation to take each case to the maximum.

martin.hale on December 30, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Tina could have taken 30 seconds to educate herself before posting the story, but then you all wouldn’t get to be so outrageously outraged about eeeeeeevil public employee unions. Wouldn’t want to deprive you of a moment of self- righteous indignation, after all.

Dukeboy01 on December 29, 2011 at 9:09 PM

So – are you just saying the union has to defend the guy? Or are you saying this guy should keep his job as a cop after getting busted drunk driving at 143 mph – added to a prior incident of using his gun to threaten a McDonald employee? What exactly do you see as the basis of our “self- righteous indignation”? I would hope it’s not because we think this guy should no longer be a cop.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Zero Tolerance for the school kid with a fingernail clipper. An abundance of tolerance for an idiot with a badge, gun and 150 mph, 2 ton cruise missile.

Guess kids would fare better if they paid dues and were reliable voters, huh?

FineasFinn on December 30, 2011 at 11:07 AM

I cringe thinking about it too- Had a really fast Dodge Dart with a HOT 340 and a stick in it that once saw 160+ mph. We actually had to get the calculator to figure out the speed based on rpm x tire x rear ratio because the speedo was long buried.

God could that car like a sum’bitch, but man if the tires or engine had let go… young and stupid.

gdonovan on December 30, 2011 at 6:18 AM

That’s what I tried to explain to my kid when he told me what he had gotten up to. It’s not just the tires either. As I explained to him, at that speed, all it takes is a coyote or dog or deer to run out into the road and your automatic response of any kind is liable to send you spinning and flipping – and at that speed, you’re dead – and so is anyone else in your car or in a car nearby.

My little brother had an ex-girlfriend killed in HS when her new boyfriend tried to outrun the cops down through a tidal marsh area in Maine – hit a frost heave at 125 and went airborne. No walking away from that.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 11:14 AM

I cringe thinking about it too- Had a really fast Dodge Dart with a HOT 340 and a stick in it that once saw 160+ mph. We actually had to get the calculator to figure out the speed based on rpm x tire x rear ratio because the speedo was long buried.

God could that car like a sum’bitch, but man if the tires or engine had let go… young and stupid.

gdonovan on December 30, 2011 at 6:18 AM

That’s what I had to explain to my son about the speed he was going. Besides the tires, at that speed if a coyote or dog or deer runs into the road, your automatic reactions are likely to send the car spinning and flipping – and you and anyone else in the car are dead. My brother had an ex-girlfriend who got killed in HS when her new boyfriend tried to outrun the cops one night – hit a frost heave at 125 and went airborne. It doesn’t take much at those speeds. That’s why I told my kid I’d be happy to pay his fees for the state patrol sponsored amateur nights at Bandimere Speedway – rather than fines and worse that comes with that kind of speeding on public roads.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 11:29 AM

It’s the union bosses and reps along with their bought-for political allies that have corrupted the union movement. Nothing but a lust for greed and power!

Bob in VA on December 30, 2011 at 11:37 AM

If a non-police officer was caught driving 143 mph under the influence, his driver’s license would be immediately revoked, and depending on the state where he was arrested, he would have to wait a number of years to have a chance of getting it back after attending driver’s reeducation classes, meaning that he would be unable to hold any job requiring him to drive a car.

Police officers are entrusted with fast cars so they can catch runaway criminals and speeders, but they are supposed to PROTECT public safety.

Saunders had no more right to drive 143 mph off-duty than a private citizen, and he was a threat to law-abiding drivers at that speed. What if he was being chased at that speed by another cop, and both cops came up behind a truck tooling along at 60 mph, or a car pulling out of a stop sign or entrance ramp, unable to slow down or control their cars at that speed?

If the unions do manage to get Saunders a job as a cop, it should be a desk job or walking a beat, with no access to police cars.

Steve Z on December 30, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Some of the commenters above are correct that the union has a legally binding, contractual obligation to defend/represent *all* of its members. The obligation comes from the union member paying and the union accepting union dues. There have been cases where fired employees have successfully sued their unions simply because the union did not defend them.

I have fired union member employees myself. This can vary from Local to Local, but there were times when the union was just as happy, just as eager, as the company to see a problem employee go. Even though they put up a defense for that employee. In these cases, the union did no more than it felt it had to in order to fulfill its obligations.

This is a completely separate matter from the criminal charges and sentencing of the cop who was speeding while intoxicated.

dikehopper on December 30, 2011 at 12:10 PM

bruntdog on December 30, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Holy cow! A strong argument for video at the take out window.

Cindy Munford on December 30, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Having worked extensively in Police Union Issues I can verify what others have said. The Police Union has NO CHOICE but to provide representation for the police officer in question. The officer has paid dues for a union to represent him on contractual issues.

Trust me, I was involved with a matter where a police officer allegedly joined a hate group. We had no choice but to represent the officer. We made it clear to the political entities involved that we were supporting the contract and NOT the officer in question.

Inzax on December 30, 2011 at 12:28 PM

RE the speed he was going – many police organizations in Colorado have Dodge Charger and Chevy Camaro interceptors – and the police versions of these are VERY fast. Even the standard police Crown Vics and Caprices could probably hit 150. Besides, my son drives a 74 Camaro we rebuilt, and he says he’s had that up to 120 on some open flat prairie roads – and that was with some performance problems/limitations we were having with the first engine. 143 is easy with a well built car these days. Shoot, one of my coworkers says his Subaru Outback surpised him jumping to 105 before he realized it just passing someone in a 65 zone.

dentarthurdent on December 29, 2011 at 10:59 PM

150 is plenty fast, and where wind resistance pretty much tells you that’s fast enough. I’ve gotten a charger up to about 150 on a straightaway, and you can pursue, but with other traffic moving 70-80 mph, you’ll fly past them. The crappy part is doing it at night in an area overrun by vermin with antlers, no matter how bright your takedown lights are.

Older Crown Vics depend on the vehicle. The new ones we got would top out around 145, and some of the old ones would choke in the 120s. I’ve met DPS troopers with Vics that die at 120, and I know there are others who run Corvettes and other craziness.

Lots of modern performance cars move pretty darn fast. Stock SRT Challengers top out at 187, and at 180, the mirrors fold back from the wind. Shelby Mustangs break 160 with no problem, I don’t know what they top out at. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 190-200.

Concerning the union, I’m not surprised at all. Where I work, we have wife & kid beaters, drunk drivers, guys who hang out with dopers, guys who mace puppy dogs, all kinds of stupidity. Our AFL-CIO affiliated union protects them all. Unless you’re drunk and hit-and-run on main street and make the paper, you’re probably still employed. Oh, wait, you’re still employed then!

CPL 310 on December 30, 2011 at 12:28 PM

Sorry about the double post above – this thread suddenly went from immediate to a 20 to 30 minute wait before the post showed up. I thought I had not clicked submit properly or something.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 12:35 PM

Speed Governors…
Many of the “hot rod” German cars have a chip in the ECU that limits them to about 155mph, even though the Euro version without the chip will do 180+. It is not difficult to swap-out that chip.

Another Drew on December 30, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Another Drew on December 30, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Good point about the cars. Cars are coming out with incredible speed capabilities these days, usually limited by artificial means like governors. To my knowledge, the police cars were usually performance enhanced and had governors removed. A few years ago I was in Germany on business. we were doing about 120 mph on the autobahn and a Mercedes with a motorcylce on his tail went by us like we were standing still.

While I like to go fast myself, as CPL310 just said, and I did also earlier, the real danger at such speeds is an animal running onto the road or a car pulling out, and the slighest twitch on the wheel in automatic reaction and you’re a goner.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Congressman Issa Sir, “WE THE PEOPLE” want to know
when the LYING RACIST IN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE is going to be ARRESTED and put on TRIAL
for PERJURY and TREASON?

ARIZONAVETERAN on December 30, 2011 at 12:56 PM

…unions are on the cusp of losing all credibility.

On the cusp? They went over the cliff and hit bottom long ago.

Public Employee Unions = Organized Crime v2

infidel4life on December 30, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Heh, I’ve enjoyed the posts/conversations about performance cars. I’m 64 years old and I hate to think about how much money I’ve spent in my life on domestic performance cars and foreign sports cars. But I’m entering old-geezerdom and sold my modified ’86 Z28 a couple of years ago.

I now have a Subaru Tribeca. I had to take a maritime ship captain’s course to learn to drive it.

dikehopper on December 30, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Inzax on December 30, 2011 at 12:28 PM

With respect to mandatory support from the union of this officer, I find the legal support less troublesome than the public statements from the union bosses.

While the police union may have a contractual obligation to provide for the legal defense against the charges, and for reinstatement, I would be surprised if there is any requirement for the union to come out publicly as strong as they have.

The union makes itself appear morally and ethically challenged, and lacking character–the very qualities we desire in our cops.

STL_Vet on December 30, 2011 at 2:35 PM

dikehopper on December 30, 2011 at 2:17 PM

It does get harder. I’m in the process of putting a new engine in my son’s 74 Camaro, and climbing around and under that car has given me bruises and scrapes and got muscles hurting that I didn’t know I had. I’ve spent many years driving 70s era Camaros and a custom Chevy van – with no A/C, power windows, heated seats, etc. But I now enjoy the comfort and accessories of my Avalanche too much to go back to an older car with few options.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 2:44 PM

I’m curious – if you never got above 130 – was that a limitation of the car or just policy based road and traffic conditions? I’ve known quite a few cops over the years, and my impression was the police versions of any of the cars had very impressive performance capabilities.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 10:56 AM

The highest speed we ever had on a Caprice 9C1 was 130 on a straight, light traffic, expressway in a chase. It was topped out. I can assure you it wouldn’t go faster. We only used them for 2 years, then rotated to new ones. The rotated ones went to road Sgts & Lts.

The Crown Vic Interceptors took forever to get over 110. I never topped out the Vic, but performance wise, the Caprice was better. For the 3years after Chevy stopped making the 9C1, there was a lot of complaints within the ranks of the Crown Vic’s performance compared to the Caprice 9C1.

I had the Crown Vic in high speed training and we used old runways at Willow Run Airport. Ran out of room to even attempt to top it out. The Caprice 9C1 was just superior to the Crown Vic Police Interceptor. Not sure if the newer models have improved since I’ve retired.

Conservative4Ever on December 30, 2011 at 5:57 PM

“This kind of nonsense helps to explain why unions are on the cusp of losing all credibility.”

On the cusp? Unions, particularly the nonsense of public employee unions, lost all credibility a L.O.N.G. time ago!

Samantha on December 30, 2011 at 6:01 PM

There was an interesting case in the UK where a guy went to court to challenge speed camera tickets. He rented a track and a professional driver to prove that his car was unable to reach the speeds the camera equipment recorded. He became a bit of a hero.

lexhamfox on December 30, 2011 at 6:14 PM

$300?!? That was the fine for only going 99 in New Mexico – 25 years ago! Oh, and the judge threatened me with jail time, too!

Dukeboy01 on December 29, 2011 at 9:09 PM

STL_Vet on December 30, 2011 at 2:35 PM

That’s the right response, STL_Vet.

Jaibones on December 29, 2011 at 9:32 PM

That was unnecessary.

As to why I know the fine for 99mph in New Mexico 25 years ago….
I was in my ’87 Dodge Daytona, going home for a holiday, on US87 from Raton to Clayton. I decided to see how fast the Daytona could go – I buried the needle (and the meter topped out at 125). I was slowing as I approached each low hill, and scanning the road ahead. So, I was already slowing when I passed the semi going the other direction – with the policeman tailgating him. He only caught me at 99. Conditions were “good” for my go at a land-speed-record: sort of flat, dry, dark (so I could see headlights waaay off and plan for them), and not a lot of critters out there. Of course, it was a stupid speed for a two-lane highway. It took me forever to recoup the cost of that ticket, too! Haven’t been that fast in a car since then. :)

GWB on December 30, 2011 at 9:24 PM

GWB on December 30, 2011 at 9:24 PM

I kind of wondered about the fine being ONLY $300 – but he did also get jail time and community service. That fine is the result of either the ticket issued by CSP or that it occurred in Arapaho County. But in comparison my son got a ticket a few years ago for doing 90 in a 45 zone, and that ticket was $500. However, in Colorado, the fines and other punishment are different in various cities, counties, or if issued by the state patrol. In my son’s case it was in Colorado Springs where the standard speeding fine is $10 per mph over the limit. And although they may plea bargain in court to lower the points off your license, they NEVER discount the fine from the original offense (its all about the $$$). So if this cop had been ticketed by CSPD in Colo springs, the fine would have been $880 plus.

dentarthurdent on December 30, 2011 at 11:42 PM

Professional courtesy. Its the new diplomatic immunity.

oryguncon on December 31, 2011 at 1:10 AM

STL_Vet

All I saw was a lawyer’s statement with the Union president not returning a call for comment.

Again, don’t mistake a lawyer’s statements defending his client as an official union position.

Maybe I missed the Union boss statement you speak of.

Inzax on December 31, 2011 at 2:57 PM

I have never heard a reasonable explanation for the need of a public union. Could it be the
Employer can not be trusted?

MrMoe on January 1, 2012 at 10:33 PM

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