Certification in question: KPD reports former chief for possible ‘untruthfulness’
State agency has pulled almost a dozen officers’ certifications for findings of untruthfulness since 2019
Former Kremmling police chief Jamie Lucas is vying to be Grand County’s next sheriff, but his law enforcement certification may be in danger.
On April 6, Kremmling Police Chief Hiram Rivera referred a complaint of untruthfulness to Colorado’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board, which certifies law enforcement officers throughout the state.
The complaint alleges that Lucas was untruthful during the Fraser Winter Park police investigation in 2019, which stemmed from allegations Lucas mishandled a case involving three juveniles who killed a feral cat on video. On the form Rivera sent POST, he classified Lucas’ “untruthfulness” as taking place during an administrative investigation or discipline process.
“I read through the investigation and I found there was some indication in there that warranted a notification to POST,” Rivera said. “The notification just puts (POST) on notice that this happened.”
The Sky-Hi News reached out to Lucas for comment, and Lucas said that he couldn’t respond until he had more information.
“Until I find out what exactly I am being accused of being untruthful about, I can not respond to speculation,” Lucas said.
Lucas is not currently employed as a law enforcement officer, but he has filed to run for Grand County Sheriff in 2022, and it’s unclear how a loss of certification might affect Lucas’ bid to become the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Colorado law requires county sheriffs to obtain POST certification within one year of taking office. While officers who have been decertified can appeal the decision within a certain timeframe, officers who have been decertified are not eligible for recertification.
In Colorado, law enforcement officers can be decertified for three reasons, including a felony conviction, certain misdemeanors and findings of untruthfulness on official documents or during certain investigations.
Lucas was originally charged in January 2020 with three counts of false reporting, four counts of official oppression, four counts of first-degree official misconduct and four counts of second-degree official misconduct for citing three juveniles on municipal violations in Kremmling, despite the incident happening outside town limits.
There are also concerns detailed in public statements from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The office describes the incident as potentially constituting felony aggravated animal cruelty charges. Lucas cited the three minors with disturbing the peace, a municipal violation.
In March, Lucas pleaded guilty to second-degree official misconduct, which is a petty offense, and was sentenced to two years unsupervised probation, a fine and community service.
The plea deal allowed Lucas to avoid convictions on misdemeanors that would have been decertifying, including first-degree official oppression.
As with all officer convictions, Lucas’ conviction was reported to the POST board for consideration by the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, but did not meet decertification standards.
According to Lawrence Pacheco, a POST spokesperson, convictions for petty offenses are not grounds for decertification.
“POST board can only decertify for those misdemeanors that are specifically mentioned in the statute and any felony plus the finding of untruthfulness,” Pacheco said. “Those are the only types of offenses that can have an impact on an officers’ certification at this time.”
Decertifying misdemeanors include assault, harassment, sexual assault, perjury, resisting arrest, official oppression and other crimes.
Pacheco explained that findings of untruthfulness are required to be reported to POST by the employing agency once they have determined by clear and convincing standard of evidence that an officer lied or omitted the truth.
Each law enforcement agency has control over their internal policy regarding who would be responsible for reporting untruthfulness. The Kremmling Police Department doesn’t currently have a policy regarding reporting to POST, though Rivera said he is in the process of creating one.
It also appears that Rivera was not required to report Lucas because the timeline in the law only requires law enforcement agencies to report findings of untruthfulness if the officer had been employed with the agency in the last six months. Rivera took over Kremmling’s department in October, seven months after town leaders decided to let Lucas go in April 2020.
Though the law no longer requires Rivera to report findings of untruthfulness for Lucas, Rivera said he felt it would be best to pass the information along to POST.
“In this position, your integrity is about all you have to sustain you,” Rivera said. “I thought it best to follow protocol and make the notification.”
FINDING OF UNTRUTHFULNESS
With KPD notifying POST that the department found evidence of clear and convincing untruthfulness regarding Lucas, it could mean decertification.
The false reporting charges stem from lies Lucas allegedly told the Fraser Winter Park Police Department when the agency was investigating the case.
The Fraser Winter Park Police Department initiated the investigation at the request of the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which received a letter from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office describing some concerns about Lucas citing the juveniles out of his jurisdiction.
Because Lucas was not convicted of any misdemeanors, it’s likely that those allegations will have no bearing on Lucas’ certification. According to Erik Bourgerie, president of the POST board, FWPPD’s investigation may not count as an internal investigation but rather part of a criminal investigation.
“Being that the investigation was requested by the DA’s office, that certainly looks to me like a criminal investigation,” Bourgerie explained. “Unless they were able to make the case that the officer being investigated was untruthful on an official criminal justice record or under oath while being interviewed, I don’t know that it would fall under the untruthfulness statute.”
When it comes to criminal justice records, Bourgerie said police reports, tickets and citations are all subject to the untruthfulness statute. If an officer reports false information on those documents, it’s grounds for decertification.
Lucas previously confirmed to the Sky-Hi News that he never wrote a police report on the juvenile animal abuse incident.
Despite the statute defining untruthfulness as either a lie or an omission, the lack of a police report by itself doesn’t constitute decertification, Bourgerie said.
“It wouldn’t fall under the statute (if he didn’t make a police report),” he said. “We’re a little in the dark until these cases get reported to us.”
However, other charges that were originally brought against Lucas hint at untruthfulness on official documents, such as the summons Lucas wrote for the juveniles and a speeding ticket he wrote in a different case.
An application for a search warrant filed by FWWPD Chief Glen Trainor in December 2019 indicates Lucas changed the location of where the juveniles were accused of killing the cat to an address within his jurisdiction on one of the citations.
Colorado has decertified 11 officers for findings of untruthfulness since the state enacted the law in August 2019.
Under the law, POST is required to revoke certification for officers who “knowingly made an untruthful statement concerning a material fact or omitted a material fact” during investigations and on official paperwork that happened on or after Aug. 2, 2019.
Six of the officers who have been decertified in Colorado were reported for untruthfulness during internal affairs investigations, administrative investigations or both; four officers were decertified for lying on a criminal justice record; and only one officer was decertified for lying under oath.
Per statute, officers can request a show-cause hearing that would lead to a separate POST investigation, and an administrative law judge would make a final decision. If an officer doesn’t request the hearing, POST can revoke certification.
Pacheco said that so far, 32 instances of untruthfulness have been reported to POST and 10 officers have requested hearings.
“The law is working and people are reporting those who have been found making an untruthful statement or an untruthful action,” he said.
Pacheco added that POST isn’t aware of any incidence of a law enforcement agency not reporting a finding of untruthfulness and the law is unclear on what the repercussions would be if that were to happen.
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