At least 600 times since 2002, Denver authorities, armed with warrants, arrested or jailed the wrong person, the American Civil Liberties Union tells the New York Times. As described in a lawsuit, similar names, stolen identities, and inaccurate records were sometimes the source of errors made by the police and jailers. In other cases, the arrests and detentions seemed inexplicable. “Denver law enforcement has knowingly tolerated an unjustifiable risk and frequency of these mistaken identity arrests, causing hundreds of innocent persons to be jailed for hours, days, even weeks on warrants for someone else,” said the ACLU’s Mark Silverstein.
In one case, the Denver police mistakenly arrested a man on three different occasions who had a name similar to the actual suspect's. Even after a warning was inserted into a criminal database, the wrong man was arrested a fourth time and jailed for eight days in 2007, says an ACLU lawsuit. Since 2009, the Denver police and the sheriff's department here have set up a system in which claims of wrongful arrest and detention are investigated immediately; fewer than 10 officers are either disciplined or retrained each year because of such mistakes, said Police Lt. Matt Murray. A group of local police experts who specialize in the process of identifying criminals is studying how to reduce the problem, said David Edinger, chief performance officer for the city. The findings are expected within the next three weeks.