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Denver police sergeant belittled officer over mental health and lied about it, investigation finds

The seal of the Denver Police Department is reflected on a desk during a press conference at the department's headquarters in Denver on July 20, 2022. (Jintak Han/The Denver Post/TNS)

A former Denver police sergeant lost his Colorado police officer certification last month after he made disparaging remarks about an officer’s mental health then lied about it during an internal investigation, records show.

Former Sgt. Theodore “Jim” Maher belittled an officer during a morning roll call in February 2022 on the officer’s first day back from leave due to mental health issues, an internal affairs investigation found. The returning officer’s name and the specifics of his diagnosis were redacted in records provided to The Denver Post on Tuesday in response to an open records request.

Three officers told internal investigators that Maher said, “Welcome back from the rubber-gun squad” to the returning officer — an informal and derogatory reference to officers who have their guns removed due to mental health concerns, according to the internal affairs report.

One of the witnesses told investigators that the returning officer sank in his chair when the sergeant made the comment, “as if the life were being drained from him,” according to the internal affairs complaint.

Maher denied saying anything of the sort, telling internal affairs investigators who asked if he’d made the comment, “Absolutely not.”

The police department ultimately found Maher’s denial to be untruthful, after the returning officer and two others confirmed Maher made the comment, according to the internal affairs report.

Maher, who started with Denver police in 2004, retired on Dec. 6, a day after the internal affairs investigation’s findings were signed by Chief Ron Thomas. An entry with the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training board says Maher resigned in lieu of termination.

The POST board decertified Maher on June 7, which means he can no longer work as a police officer anywhere in Colorado.

He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The complaint against the sergeant began when the officer who’d been on leave for mental health concerns wrote a memo to his supervisors in which he outlined how the Denver Police Department “failed him regarding his mental health concerns and how he would like to be a part of process improvement,” according to the internal affairs report.

The officer did not intend to spark an investigation into Maher, but outlined the sergeant’s roll call comments in the memo, which led to the investigation.

In addition to the “rubber-gun squad” remark, the internal affairs investigation also found that Maher made continuing derisive comments on a regular basis to the officer about his mental health.


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