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Cop who parked cruiser on railroad track deemed ‘significant’ liability risk by previous employer

Body-camera and dash-camera footage released by the Fort Lupton Police Department, the agency whose jurisdiction the crash happened in, shows the train crashing into the police cruiser while Rios-Gonzalez begged for help. She ultimately survived the crash with serious injuries, according to the investigating agency, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Platteville police officers became involved in the incident when one of the force’s officers spotted the vehicle Rios-Gonzalez was driving. Neighboring agencies had been provided a description of the car after a 911 caller claimed that a woman in the vehicle pulled a gun on him in a road rage dispute.

While Vazquez parked his cruiser on the train tracks, another officer who had responded to the scene from the Fort Lupton police force, put Rios-Gonzalez in the cruiser.

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Vazquez had already been at the center of five internal affairs probes before Platteville police even hired him, and other officers launched two of the investigations, CBS News reported.

“Police officers serving under Sergeant Pablo Vazquez approached police administrators with concerns regarding Sergeant Vazquez’s work performance,” someone wrote in one internal affairs complaint the news station obtained.

In another complaint, another person wrote:

”a police officer complained that Sergeant Pablo Vazquez… has a lack of radio awareness and often requires several contacts before he responds… unit and call awareness need improvement… rarely knows where his officers are and what kind of call they are on… has an extremely slow response time to calls or requests for cover.”

Federal Heights police administrators conducted a performance review on Vazquez and developed an improvement plan for him in September 2019, CBS News Colorado reported. Administrators wrote in the plan: “Sergeant Vazquez’s documented failure to provide adequate supervision presented a significant risk of liability to the City of Federal Heights and the safety of the officers under his supervision.”

In his evaluation, supervisors gave him one of the lowest possible scores, citing his “poor quality of work” and leadership that “needs improvement.” The “employee is unable to achieve effective results,” officials wrote of Vazquez. 

Apparently seeing the writing on the wall, he resigned on Mar. 14, 2020, and went on to work for Platteville police. “Platteville conducts a standard background check that inquires into an applicant’s prior employment history and criminal record,” Platteville Police Chief Carl Dwyer told CBS News Colorado.

Vazquez went on to continue earning negative remarks from supervisors in Platteville, according to internal affairs documents CBS News Colorado obtained that were dated in January. The chief reportedly told Vazquez, who was accused of tampering with a co-worker’s cellphone, that his actions were “inappropriate.”

“Please use better judgment moving forward to avoid further disciplinary action,” the chief said in what had been a written reprimand.

Apparently, better judgment is not something the sergeant is capable of. 

Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen joins us on The Downballot to explain how his firm weights polls to reflect the likely electorate; why Democratic leads in most surveys this year should be treated as smaller than they appear because undecided voters lean heavily anti-Biden; and the surprisingly potent impact abortion has had on moving the needle with voters despite our deep polarization.

RELATED STORY: Unnamed 911 caller says he was the victim in ‘road rage’ incident, not handcuffed woman hit by train



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