DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s Department of Public Safety has ordered veteran police officer Matthew Graves to serve a 10 day, unpaid suspension for uttering disparaging comments toward Hispanic people. The police department called them “inappropriate … derogatory … discriminating,” according to a disciplinary order obtained by CBS4.
Matthew Graves (credit: CBS)
According to the Oct. 27 letter, Officer Graves, who has been with the department since 1994, made the comments in May of 2020 when he saw another officer posting signs throughout DPD headquarters in English and Spanish about a requirement to wear face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The witness officer said after seeing a sign posted in Spanish, Graves said “This is America and we speak English here.. if you don’t speak English (either) go home (or) go back to Mexico.”
Apparently unknown to Graves, three Spanish-speaking members of the janitorial staff were nearby and heard Graves’ comments.
One told investigators, “This is not an acceptable thing for an officer to say to us, and it is very upsetting.”
Another said, “the comments made her feel upset and she had to hold back tears.” She said she and her co-workers were “upset, angry, and shocked …”
Another of the employees recalled hearing Graves say, “If you want to speak Spanish, go back to Mexico… this is America.”
She said she was “less confident at work because she fears people will be angry or upset with her for speaking Spanish.”
When Graves was interviewed by an internal affairs investigator, he said he was engaging in “light banter” with a fellow officer and said he had “made a joking comment.”
He said he wanted to apologize for what he said and agreed the comments did not appropriately represent himself or the Denver Police Department.
“Officer Graves acknowledged that his comments were inappropriate,” according to the disciplinary letter.
Graves was scheduled to serve the first half of his 10 day suspension this month, and the second half next month.
His previous disciplines include:
– In 1997, department charges of departing from the truth, using improper procedure with a prisoner, inappropriate force and assault were sustained. – In 2005, department charges of improper procedures were sustained.
– In 2006, Graves was given an oral reprimand for a preventable accident.
– In 2011, the officer was reprimanded for “obedience to traffic regulations.”
– In 2012, Graves was given an oral reprimand for a preventable accident.
– In 2013, Graves received a suspension for failing to obey departmental rules and Mayoral Executive Orders.
– In 2014, Graves received a written reprimand for failing to obey departmental rules and Mayoral Executive Orders.
– In 2015, following a citizen complaint, Graves received a written reprimand for failing to obey departmental rules and Mayoral Executive Orders.
– In 2019, Graves was suspended for failing to make, file, or complete official required reports.
CBS4 attempted to contact Graves via email to obtain comment on his latest discipline, but did not receive an immediate response. Records indicate Graves is currently assigned to work at Denver International Airport.
*story by CBS Denver