From Darkness To Light

3 Mar 2024

Durango Police Department wields unwritten policy to obstruct process service

Posted by Adam Howell

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An unwritten Durango Police Department (DPD) policy that prohibits staff at the front office of the facility from accepting legal documents from process servers appears to be attempting to obstruct justice upon its officers.

Durango Police Department

DPD’s sovereign citizen Records Technician Christi Brennan.

Specifically, DPD Records Supervisor Julie Harris is willfully refusing to accept delivery of personal service from staff at La Plata County Sheriff’s Office. Harris said she would not accept civil court documents to hand over to an officer listed in a lawsuit.

In January of 2024, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Civil Service Administrator Amy Lemons said that the police department staff in the DPD records office refused to accept service of my lawsuit. Their reasoning for rejecting it was the unwritten policy.

A sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office had to serve the DPD defendant at 3:35 a.m. at the police department, according to the Proof of Service.

In addition, Harris’ subordinate, Records Technician Christi Brennan, said that she would also not accept process of civil court paper work for any officer at the department.

“I certainly wouldn’t accept a civil subpoena for anybody,” said Brennan.

After showing Brennan a physical printout of Colo. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(1), and asking if her or any of the staff in the office fit the job title of administrative assistant or secretary who the statute allows process servers to deliver personal service to for officers in the department, Brennan stated that she would not accept it. Brennan went on, saying that my paper was “stupid.”

Generally, Colo. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(1) allows process servers to deliver legal documentation to government officials at their usual workplace, even when those officials are not physically present for the server to hand it to them.

However, most of the offices that DPD officers use at the facility are not open to the public, and often times the officers are out in the field where process servers may not be able to find them.

Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure Rule appears to allow service to DPD records technicians

To clarify, the law that allows process servers to deliver legal documents to an officer’s usual workplace, Colo. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(1) states the following:

(e) Personal Service. Personal service shall be as follows:(1) Upon a natural person whose age is eighteen years or older by delivering a copy thereof to the person, or by leaving a copy thereof at the person’s usual place of abode, with any person whose age is eighteen years or older and who is a member of the person’s family, or at the person’s usual workplace, with the person’s supervisor, secretary, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, human resources representative or managing agent; or by delivering a copy to a person authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.

Police Records Technician’s duties resemble those of a secretary, administrative assistant or bookkeeper

Based upon the most recent job description of a Police Records Technician at Durango Police Department, one could infer that they perform duties resembling that of a secretary, administrative assistant or bookkeeper. In particular, some of the following responsibilities are given in the job description:

  • Perform a wide variety of specialized clerical duties essential to the processing and maintenance of Police Department records
  • Query CCIC/NCIC databases to maintain arrest warrants for wanted criminals as well as queries for stolen property, missing persons and other sensitive law enforcement information
  • Compile, edit, type, record and file a wide variety of police records, reports, and materials including incident/arrest reports, citations, memos, letters, financial reports, complaints, declarations, finger-print cards and bookings, citations, crime and traffic warnings and reports, and forgery files
  • Respond to open records requests form the general public and other law enforcement agencies, determine information that must be redacted in order to remain in compliance with the Colorado Open Records Act
  • Audit, maintain and improve the department’s recordkeeping and information sharing practices and procedures to improve the quality of local crime analysis and investigations
  • Assist Department personnel and the public in person and by phone performing record checks, collecting fees, and mailing out requested reports to outside agencies in accordance with established regulations; provide general information regarding Department policies, procedures and regulations
  • Compile data for, summarize, and maintain a variety of statistical and financial reports
  • Assist the public at the front window; provide information and direct public to proper entities in the Police Department
  • Fiscal Responsibilities: Employee is responsible for the collection, recording and accounting of fees collected
  • Comply with court orders regarding subpoenas, sealing records and others

While the job description of Police Records Technician does not explicitly use the title “secretary,” “administrative assistant” or “bookkeeper,” the responsibilities are the same.

Definitions of ‘secretary’ and ‘bookkeeping’ from Black’s Law Dictionary

Notably, Black’s Law Dictionary defines secretary as follows:

  1. An administrative assistant.
  2. A corporate officer in charge of official correspondence, minutes of board meetings, and records of stock ownership and transfer. –Also termed clerk of the corporation.
  3. Parliamentary Law. An officer charged with recording a deliberative assembly’s proceedings. –Also termed clerk; recorder; recording secretary; recording officer; scribe.

For example, Black’s Law Dictionary defines “bookkeeping”  as, “The mechanical recording of debits and credits or the summarizing of financial information, usually about a business enterprise; esp., the job of recording the financial accounts of a business or other organization.”

Durango Police Department staff policy raises legal & ethical questions

Of concern, this unwritten policy of Durango Police Department staff at the front window rejecting service of legal documents to officers raises legal and ethical questions.

Durango Police Department

DPD’s sovereign citizen Records Supervisor Julie Harris.

First, is Records Supervisor Julie Harris’ conduct of rejecting service an act of obstructing justice pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-8-102(1)?

C.R.S. 18-8-102. Obstructing government operations.
(1) A person commits obstructing government operations if he intentionally obstructs, impairs, or hinders the performance of a governmental function by a public servant, by using or threatening to use violence, force, or physical interference or obstacle.

Moreover, a public servant is defined in Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-901(3)(o) as:

(o) “Public servant” means any officer or employee of government, whether elected or appointed, and any person participating as an advisor, consultant, process server, or otherwise in performing a governmental function, but the term does not include witnesses.

Furthermore, when Harris and her subordinate staff reject service of legal documents, they appear to be performing a discretionary function since DPD does NOT have a written policy, practice or custom that they follow when acting as sovereign citizens.

On Feb. 5, 2024 I submitted the following records request to Durango Police Department:

Please provide a copy of the written policy, practice or custom of Durango Police Department that directs its staff to reject personal service of legal documents that process servers attempt to serve upon a supervisor, secretary, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, human resources representative or managing agent of any employee of Durango Police Department.

In response, Sgt. Zane Hallock provided the following memorandum one day later than allowed by the Colorado Open Records Act:

Howell_Records_Reqeust_Memo (1)

Basically, Hallock’s written response stating that no policy exists, directly contradicts what Julie Harris and Christi Bennett told me when I visited the office in person. When I visited the office in person, they said that they would not accept any civil subpoena or civil summons for an officer in accordance with their policy.

So which one is it, Harris? Which one is it, Hallock? Why are they giving me conflicting messages about the existence of a policy that prohibits them from accepting personal service for an officer?

What Hallock’s response means is that when Harris and other Police Records Technicians reject personal service they are probably acting in their individual capacities.

In other words, the legal liability is likely shifted from the City of Durango to these ignorant records technicians staff who are just following verbal orders in their individual capacities.

Secondly, is Harris’ conduct of rejecting service of officers through her and her staff ethically immoral because it delays accountability for wrongdoing, and in some situations could deter or prevent service altogether?

Durango Police Department’s rejection of personal service protects sovereign citizen officers

Ultimately, DPD’s unwritten practice of rejecting indirect personal service at the department through secretaries, administrative assistants and bookkeepers is a continuation of its system of hindering accountability for the misconduct of its officers.

As an illustration of another way that DPD limits and prohibits accountability for police misconduct they have a secretive Citizen Complaint Review Panel that meets once a year after the citizen’s complaints were already disposed of by city investigators or supervisors.

Adam Howell is a writer who believes in free press and the importance of the constitution. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.

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