AURORA | One of Aurora’s highest-ranking police officers is accusing the chief of stomping on his First Amendment rights and is planning a lawsuit against the city, the officer’s lawyer said.

Former Division Chief Ken Murphy was demoted this month to commander, just a few weeks after he contradicted Police Chief Dan Oates and testified at a discipline hearing in favor of another officer who had been demoted.

Donald Sisson, Murphy’s lawyer, said Murphy, who had been a division chief for 11 years and an officer for 30 years, was demoted because he testified contrary to the chief.

“You can’t take adverse employment action against an employee based on their testimony,” he said.

In the coming weeks, Sisson said he plans to file a lawsuit in federal court accusing the chief of violating Murphy’s right to free speech.

Oates’ office referred questions on the case to City Attorney Charlie Richardson.

In an email, Richardson said there was more to Murphy’s demotion than his testimony.

“I can assure you of the fact that former Division Chief Murphy testified at a civil service hearing contrary to the Chief’s position was not the sole fact. Certainly there is no prohibition of internal debate, disagreement or argument, but once the Chief, or any CEO, makes a decision, that must be adhered to, especially in a paramilitary organization,” Richardson said.

Murphy testified last month on behalf of former Lt. Paul Swanson, who was demoted from lieutenant down to patrol officer in 2011 amid allegations that he failed to show up for work as commander of the Metro Gang Task Force.

Swanson appealed his demotion to the city’s Civil Service Commission, which sided with the chief and upheld the penalty. Swanson has since appealed to district court.

Murphy testified that he didn’t think Swanson, who is his longtime friend, should have been demoted.

The testimony from Murphy, a longtime and popular fixture at APD, became a major issue in Swanson’s hearing.

During his closing argument, Sisson, who also represented Swanson, said the city was trying to discredit Murphy, even though they have called him as a witness on their behalf several times before.

Deputy City Attorney Peter Morales, who argued the city’s case, said during his closing argument that being on the opposite side of Murphy, his longtime friend, was a difficult situation. But, he said, Murphy was on the wrong side with Swanson.

He also said Murphy’s friendship with Swanson was a reason Swanson was able to get away with allegedly shirking his duties for as long as he was. He said there was an “atmosphere of intimidation and protection going on for years” around Swanson.

“That is why he got away with it for so long,” Morales said.

3 replies on “PENALTY NETS CHIEF COMPLAINT: Demoted police division chief says he’ll sue city over free speech questions”

  1. The atmosphere of intimidation and protection was not limitted to Swanson or involve just one Division Chief….just in case the public is wondering and for that matter you too Mr. City Attorney.

  2. This is nothing new for Chief Oates to pull. It’s happened before to anyone who doesn’t agree with his viewpoint.

    I’m of the opinion that Chief Oates has been working on this stunt for awhile and has the full backing from the Mayor, Council, City Manager and the City Attorney. Maybe I shouldn’t be so bold to say what I think or I might get demoted?

    I just heard that Mayor Hogan is hot under the collar about information leaking to the tax payers and has now directed Council to stop communicating in email with the citizens of Aurora.
    Every single one of them talk about “transparency” yet, each do their best to minimize our ability to obtain information.

    It appears they’ve all forgotten who their true boss is. THE CITIZENS OF AURORA WHO HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THEIR ANTICS!

  3. Well, well, well. After doing my own mini investigation on Chief Daniel J. Oates, it turns out he was found to be in violation of the 1st amendment when working for NYPD too.

    I located a news article written Thursday June 2nd 2005 that said:

    Before coming to Ann Arbor in August 2001, Daniel Oates, an attorney, was the commander of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Intelligence Division. In that position, Deputy Chief Oates, while not a named defendant, was an important figure in three First Amendment lawsuits litigated by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Housing Works–an HIV-AIDS service provider and advocacy group that was critical of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s AIDS policies. Three separate opinions of federal District Judge Harold Baer, Jr. reveal that Oates and other officials repeatedly violated the First Amendment rights of Housing Works and its supporters under the rubric of security concerns. […]

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