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.
The 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:
— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 21, 2014
So far, response to the letter on Twitter has been positive:
@DenverPolice WAY TO GO, GUYS. Really proud of this response from my local PD.
— Brit Blalock (@BritBlalock) July 21, 2014
— mike smith (@spartakms83) July 21, 2014
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.