Denver Police Chief Robert White.
Denver Police Chief Robert White.

Denver Police Chief Robert White has launched an investigation into an incident involving an officer who told a Seattle man that the Uber ride he was taking was illegal.

In a letter posted on Twitter from the Denver Police account, Chief White publicly apologized to Dave Cook, the Seattle man who recounted the incident in a post on GeekWire over the weekend.

“In our initial review of the facts of this case, the officer corroborates much of what you wrote in your column,” White wrote in his public letter this afternoon. “I find this to be concerning and have opened an investigation into whether the officer’s conduct was within policy and appropriate. You will be receiving further communication from the Commander of our Internal Affairs Bureau regarding the outcome of this investigation.”

Cook, the brother of GeekWire co-founder John Cook, said this afternoon that he was impressed with how the police department took action quickly. He also noted that the letter seemed appropriate given the situation.

“I didn’t write the post for the purpose of getting an apology, nor did I write it to get the specific officer in some sort of serious trouble,” Dave Cook said on Monday. “What [the officer] did was inappropriate and it was worth writing about.”

Cook wrote in his post that he was riding in an UberX vehicle to the Denver International Airport on Friday when his car was pulled over on the left side of an offramp about a mile from the airport.

uberxThe officer, who cited the driver for speeding, asked Cook if he was paying for his ride to the airport. When Cook responded yes, the officer said he was going to educate Cook and the driver in Colorado state law, saying that Uber was illegal in the state.

In fact, as Cook learned when he quickly researched the issue on his phone during the traffic stop, Colorado recently became the first state to legalize services like UberX and Lyft, which let drivers use their own cars to transport paying passengers.

White wrote in his public letter to Cook today, “I would like to publicly apologize for any inconvenience or frustration we may have caused you. The Denver Police Department fully embraces Colorado State law — including the new law regarding Uber taxi services.”

Cook, who was in Denver to attend an Engineers Without Borders meeting, detailed his experience in this guest post on GeekWire on Saturday, noting that the officer took his license at one point during the stop.

After the officer gave the citation, he opened the back door again and offered me a “free” ride to the airport. I told him that I had learned while he was gone that the state had just enacted a law allowing Uber. In fact, I referenced that the Governor was proud of it.

I then asked point blank if what I was doing was illegal. The officer didn’t answer my question, said there was some sort of disagreement being discussed about the law and then he told me that the driver had no commercial insurance and that if he got in a wreck and I got injured that there would be no insurance.

Cook said that he still believes Denver is a “great city,” and that Colorado is a “great state.” But he did note that “abuse of power needs to be completely eliminated from our society.” (Correction: The quote above has been changed to accurately reflect Cook’s remarks around “abuse of power.”)

Uber said in a statement to GeekWire: “Colorado was the first state to officially embrace ridesharing, confirming that uberX is legal and has a home in the state. Their regulations serve as a model throughout the nation and we are proud that uberX continues to be the vanguard in rider safety and quality.”

Uber also thanked Chief White “for taking this incident so seriously.”

“His transparent and immediate response speaks volumes of the leadership of the Denver Police Department,” the company wrote in a statement.

You can see the full letter here:

So far, response to the letter on Twitter has been positive:

Editor’s note, 6 p.m.: Comments from Dave Cook were added to this story.

Editor’s note, July 22: Comment from Uber was added to this story. 

Comments

  • http://cheezburger.com Scott Moore

    Good to hear. What a nightmare. I hope the cop involved gets disciplined–from what Dave reports, his behavior was unprofessional and unsafe. Not what you want from law enforcement. Thanks for shining a light on it.

    • RamonaSmith

      This reminds me of the time Denver Police tried to restrain a streaker which was running through the Denver Zoo.

      In that incident, Denver Police dispatched 15 police cars to retrain the single 29-year old streaker, who was tazed more than 15 times. He died. That said, Denver Police have a lot of hiring and training issues; and I say this as the son of an officer in a neighboring county! My father designed the hiring and accreditation for law enforcement personnel in the neighboring county; the process is similar to Federal Background checks (FBI/CIA), whom I have family there. (Colorado has the 2nd most Federal Employee Workforce behind Washington DC).

      So, in Denver, many people who fail the background checks are often considered cleared be hired in Denver County instead.

      Bear in mind– Denver Metro area is about the size of King County; but within that space is 64 cities, 7 counties. Also, each city has to vote for weed use, if first approved by the county. Denver City and County was the first. It just seems that everyone in Denver Police Department wants to be in the news.

      I agree; Dave did a great job here.

    • Fuckuber@lyft.com

      Fuck you piece of shit the cop was 100% right fuck uber and you piece of shit stupid fuck

  • Guest

    Good outcome. It’s too bad every young male minority doesn’t have a brother who is a journalist. Most are regularly treated quite a bit worse than this by police. Even in cases of far more abusive treatment, apologies are rare.

  • RobertinSeattle

    Somehow, I suspect that the speeding ticket may also have been nothing more than an intimidation tactic on the part of one more sociopath cop. And there are a lot of them in every police force (just look at the events that prompted all the changes in SPD recently). The behavior was clearly thug-like with absolutely no professionalism whatsoever.

    I hope that this driver will fight – and hopefully beat – that ticket both for principle as well as the fact that it will certainly affect his insurance and possibly his ability to continue driving passengers (which may have been that jerk’s intent in the first place!).

  • Bam Booey

    Great response by those in charge, yet this remains an example of the fact that those with a soapbox get a respectable outcome. Everybody else get railroaded by bullies with badges.

    • Nuclearsnakekiller

      Bam booey, you are 100% correct. Now days we need a lawyer and journalist for every police encounter, otherwise it’s completely different outcome.

      • John Schickler

        Turn on a recording device during every traffic stop.

        • Guest

          You are so close! It’s actually those with millions in VC money manage to bully people until they get the outcome they like. None of you know if this driver had insurance, if their vehicle was properly inspected, or anything else that is required by Colorado law, but you’re quite quick to assume they were innocent of any violation. Yes, innocent until proven guilty, but with the history of illegal actions by these new taxi companies, we should proceed with caution in assuming any of them are innocent. The cop should have asked for proof of insurance (which is required to be carried) rather than berating the passenger.

          • damama

            He did ask for insurance, registration, and license and the driver gave it to him.

  • Lyle Smith

    There are many cops all over this country who are misinformed, or just didn’t pay attention on any number of subjects. I found that out 1st hand when pulled over by my hometown police department. I’m a card carrying, legal handgun carrier in TN. I was carrying 2 firearms the night I was pulled over, one a .357 Mag Taurus 8 shot revolver, and the other a 9mm Taurus pistol. I was told inaccurately that the TN handgun carry law permitted concealed carry ONLY. That young, dumb cop got an education in TN handgun carry law that night, confirmed by…guess who…the resident handgun carry specialist on the force. Officers…YOU are paid to know the law. I shouldn’t have to educate you on YOUR job!

  • Daneuric

    What was this cop’s beef? Does he co-own a gypsy taxi? Does his family own a limo service? I hope internal affairs looks into whether or not this was an attempt to use his badge for financial gain for himself or his family.

    • RM

      His issue is that he’s become accustomed to bullying and intimidating people with no consequence. Most people would rather just keep their head down when dealing with illegal police activity rather than stand up for their rights.

      Cops are actually trained to violate our constitutional rights by using ‘authority’ and public compliance against us. In the first article the author shouldn’t have even been asked for his ID. He did nothing wrong and there was no probable cause. This type of civil rights violation goes on REGULARLY. It’s so bad even law abiding citizens should be worried about the police.

  • John Schickler

    Since there was no mention of speeding during the initial encounter, the officer was lying on an official document. I believe legal action should be taken against the officer. Colorado is not known for the quality of their police officers. Clean up your act boys.

  • Guest

    Over the last few years, Denver has paid out millions of dollars in court judgements to citizens who’ve been physically abused by dirty Denver cops. Almost all these cases were awarded because of people who captured these abuses on smart phones. It is advisable for the everyone who has a smart phone to record any encounters with cops, whether their own or someone else’s. It is legal to do this. This won’t stop the abuse, but will at least send a message to Hickenlooper and Hancock to clean up the dirty DPD or suffer more millions of dollars of judgements against it.

  • http://www.lyftvsuber.com Liz Miller

    Taxi companies protesting against Uber is akin to telegraph companies protesting against email. Evolve or perish. Go to http://www.lyftvsuber.com/ to try out Uber or Lyft for yourself! The website compares the two most popular ride-sharing services. $30, $25 of FREE ride credit for new passengers and up to $500 sign-up BONUS for new drivers!! Drivers can make as much as $40/hr! Hope you can see what all the hype is about :) Thanks!!!

    • kajidono

      I know the last time I needed a taxi for a 3 mile lift, I went through three different companies in 4 hours and none of them ever showed up. We ended up walking.

  • c w

    Name the officer, lay a charge of discreditable conduct and check his notes for falsehoods regarding the speeding. He is clearly a liar.

  • dagobarbz

    Cops are super bored because no more marijuana busts?

  • Yawn.

    Technophile in love with his latest iFad meets vaguely trained law enforcement officer and nothing of any particular consequence ensues.

    Next thing you know people will be ordering coffee drinks specifically heated to their own individually preferred temperatures.

  • TisSheilah

    I’m pleasantly surprised with Denver’s response.

  • Mex Seiko

    It’s strange that cops would specifically target Uber. There must be some back door issue with the local cabbies and the troopers. This is not good. Taking the ride from the Ubber driver would’ve cost him the fare, almost completed, and the lost time.

    The investigation should include whether the police is disseminating law revisions in a timely manner to the officers, and the appearance of troopers taking the matter rather in a personal way as if there was some personal interest than the rider’s or the driver’s himself.

  • Dang

    Happened to me today at Oakland International Airport… I was warned and told I’ll be issued a ticket if I continue to load the passengers from Oakland Airport… He is and Airport Police named ‘Leo;

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