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Watch out, Denver! Cop reinstated after 143 mph drunken joyride

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Steven Nelson
Associate Editor

A troubled Denver police officer has been reinstated after a three-member panel of the city’s Civil Service Commission overturned his termination for driving 143 miles per hour while drunk.

Derrick Saunders was arrested on June 17, 2010 for cruising 88 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. He had a .089 blood alcohol level at the time of his arrest.

This wasn’t the officer’s first run-in with the law. Since he was hired by the police force in 2007, other felonious allegations against Saunders include brandishing a gun to scare McDonald’s employees into working faster.

ABC 7 reports that in 2009 Saunders, then assigned to securing Denver International Airport, grew impatient while waiting for his order at the fast food restaurant. He allegedly pulled a gun on employees when they failed to prepare his food with the utmost haste.

A jury acquitted Saunders of the gun-brandishing allegations in April 2010 — one month before his undisputed high-speed joyride.

In canning Saunders, who pled guilty to drunk and reckless driving charges, city safety manager Alex Martinez wrote, “The fact that you drove at this dangerous speed while your ability to drive was impaired by alcohol is shocking.”

The three-member panel of the Civil Service Commission that reviewed Saunders’ case, however, decided that Martinez had “failed to prove any extraordinary aggravation” and “also failed to consider mitigating factors.”

“[T]he disciplinary action of termination far exceeds the discipline given to other officers in comparative or greater misconduct cases,” the commissioners said.

Martinez is outraged by the decision, saying in a statement published by the Denver Post, “this decision completely misinterprets the disciplinary code, undermines civilian authority to manage the police and uses the concept of consistent discipline to confine the department to the distant past.”

Martinez, who is appealing the reinstatement, added that, “We would never hire someone as a law enforcement officer who had engaged in this behavior.”

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