Trooper trouble requires more action
The news that a local Colorado State Patrol trooper allegedly submitted official reports that contained incorrect information about people arrested on alcohol-related charges, and that he reportedly demonstrated a clear bias against drivers he suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the latest problem for the State Patrol in this region.
Last year, two state patrol troopers were prosecuted for tracking an alleged traffic violator to his home. One of the officers shot and killed the man in his home, who proved to be unarmed.
The most recent incident involves Trooper Donald Moseman, who left the State Patrol Dec. 1 following an internal investigation of his handling of DUI cases.
But it’s hard to square what he allegedly did with District Attorney Pete Hautzinger’s statement that he has not seen or heard anything related to Moseman “That gives rise to any potential criminal charges.”
This despite the fact that Moseman’s supervisor sent a letter to Hautzinger telling him that Moseman “submitted reports which were a combination of reports from prior arrests and the current arrest, resulting in reports which contained wrong or conflicting information.”
Did Moseman, who reportedly “displayed a bias against drivers who may have consumed alcohol or drugs prior to driving,” just accidentally submit incorrect reports? That seems unlikely, but if it’s true, it suggests a problem in his training.
If he knowingly submitted false information, then he committed a crime, just as any private citizen who intentionally submits wrong information on a police report. There are perjury laws and a variety of statutes related to official misconduct that would seem to apply.
This isn’t just about an overzealous cop who made a mistake. It’s about a whole bunch of individual drivers who may have been falsely accused and prosecuted because of the trooper’s actions. Others, who may have been entirely deserving of DUI charges, could now see their cases overturned or thrown out due to Moseman’s involvement in their cases. Civil lawsuits are also a possibility.
If cases are thrown out or lawsuits are filed, they won’t be due to a technicality, but because the rights of individuals were violated because of Moseman’s actions.
There are damages to the entire community, not just those immediately affected, both when individual rights are violated and when those who may deserve punishment are able to avoid it because of a police officer’s malfeasance.
That’s why we urge Hautzinger to take another look at whether any criminal violations occurred, and to prosecute Moseman if there is evidence of him breaking the law.
Furthermore, while we don’t believe most State Patrol officers perform their duties with a careless disregard for the rule of law, there have been some alarming problems with a few officers. As a starting point, the Colorado State Patrol needs to re-examine its training requirements and oversight of officers.