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Former cop searches for justice

Greg Masse

A former Glenwood Springs policeman who says he was fired without just cause has sued the city.

Jeffrey Lindsey, an officer for the department since November 1998, was fired on March 14 for “actions during one arrest and inventory search that took place on Feb. 16.”

Police chief Terry Wilson, city manager Mike Copp and city human resources director Sebrina Hoffmeister each were named as defendants in the suit, filed July 11.

According to text in the suit, written by Lindsey’s attorneys Timothy Thulson and Christopher Geiger, Lindsey was working with officer Jeremy Rainwater when the two stopped and arrested a man who had four outstanding warrants, including warrants for felony narcotics charges.

The act in question occurred after the suspect was placed into custody.

While Rainwater was bringing the suspect to jail, Lindsey searched the car, finding a spare tire in the trunk that felt “heavier than expected” and appeared “fully inflated without having air in the tire,” the suit said. Figuring the tire might have contained drugs, the suit said Lindsey checked with Rainwater, who said to look inside the tire and to call Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team officer Chris Danielson if he found anything.

“Believing that he had permission from his superior officer, TRIDENT officer Danielson, and from the primary officer, officer Rainwater, plaintiff cut the tire in a manner exhibited in (Glenwood Springs Police Department) training materials published by the DEA and searched the inside of the tire,” the suit said. It did not say whether drugs were found in the tire.

About 10 days later, the suit said chief Wilson began an investigation into Lindsey’s search. He interviewed officers Rainwater, Matt Hagberry, Sgt. Bill Kimminau and others, but the suit alleges he did not interview the suspect, Danielson or Lindsey – each of whom were involved with the incident.

On March 7, Lindsey had a meeting with Wilson, Lt. Lou Vallario and Sgt. Dan Aklinski about the tire search. This was the first time Lindsey knew an investigation into his actions was under way, the suit said.

At the meeting, Lindsey was told that he had violated the department’s search and seizure policy by cutting the tire to search it. Wilson characterized the actions as “well beyond the scope of accepted practice within conventional law” and that they “may reach the threshold of prosecutable law.”

“Using coarse and vulgar language,” Wilson told Lindsey that the city manager had given Wilson authority in the matter, “even though the employee handbook provided otherwise,” the suit alleges. “Wilson then said that he was going to `go play golf for a few days,’ and upon his return, would tell (Lindsey) what disciplinary action he had decided upon.”

He took that action on March 14, firing Lindsey.

Glenwood Springs police Lt. Lou Vallario and Glenwood Springs city attorney Teresa Williams declined to comment on the suit.

Lindsey’s attorney Geiger did not return phone calls Wednesday.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the city failed to follow proper procedure in terminating Lindsey, refused to produce documents related to his termination and refused to allow Lindsey to depose witnesses testifying against him.

At an administrative hearing on the matter, which took place over 16 hours on May 29 and 30 at City Hall, the suit alleges city employees in the reception area were told not to speak to Lindsey, his attorney or his friends and family. Also, Lindsey’s friends and family were not allowed to attend the hearing.

During the 16-hour hearing, the suit claims the city took up more than 15 1/2 hours, leaving only 19 minutes for Lindsey to present evidence and witnesses on his behalf.

“Given the severe time limitations, (Lindsey’s) counsel had time only to lodge objections and make a brief statement to the hearing panel,” the suit said.

Lindsey is seeking compensatory damages – including lost wages and benefits, reinstatement to his position as a police officer, removal of all disciplinary items two years old and older from his personnel file, punitive damages and attorney fees.

City officials must respond to the suit within 20 days of receiving it.


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