Commander Rafael Cintron
Colorado Springs Police Department officials are downplaying an incident in which Commander Rafael Cintron
, a 34-year CSPD veteran, was cited for careless driving after crashing his personal vehicle into a trash container and being observed with the smell of alcohol on his breath.
Cintron, 57, served as the staff duty officer at the time of the crash, about 6 p.m. on Dec. 15. That means he was the commander in charge of any major incident, such as an officer-involved shooting, and would be called upon to oversee the incident as well as brief the police chief and the District Attorney's Office.
Facing a March 20 hearing in El Paso County court and an internal affairs investigation, Cintron recently retired. He's still listed on the CSPD website as commander of the Metro Vice Narcotics and Intelligence Division.
CSPD spokesperson Lt. Jim Sokolik tells the Indy
a DUI officer conducted a field sobriety test and found him unimpaired. But a neighbor tells the Indy
that Cintron was "yelling at everyone" after the crash and proceeded to drink two gallons of water at neighbors' homes as police arrived and perused the scene. Deputy Chief Adrian Vasquez, who signed Cintron's citation, drove Cintron home that night, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fears of retaliation.
The incident has raised questions among the ranks about why Cintron was granted what they perceive as special treatment not afforded to any other cop, not to mention any member of the public.
Former CSPD officer John McFarland believes Cintron got special treatment via the ride home and for not being charged with a more serious crime. He also alleges the deputy chief helped in an attempted cover-up of the incident. Sokolik says there was no special treatment.
"I strongly believe in holding police officers, whether street cops or senior management, to the highest standards," McFarland wrote in an email to his friends that was shared with the Indy
. "A cop who 'departs from the truth' (the oft-repeated euphemism for being a liar) deserves to be fired and criminally prosecuted. For this reason, I feel morally compelled to act. I cannot simply look the other way and sleep at night."
If someone detected alcohol on an officer's breath, that officer would be given a portable breath test. If it came back positive, the officer would immediately be suspended and an internal affairs investigation launched, a police source says. Motorists under suspicion of DUI aren't allowed to drink water, eat or chew gum, the source says.
Sokolik disputed that, saying officers who smell of alcohol aren't automatically suspended, because there must evidence of intoxication to impose sanctions. He also disputed that motorists under suspicion of DUI aren't allowed to drink or eat. He said if probable cause exists of a DUI, then there is a period of time called observation during which a suspect isn't allowed to eat or drink but other than that, suspects could drink water. Moreover, Sokolik took issue with the idea that drinking water would impact a person's blood alcohol level. He says it does not. "Intake of liquid has nothing to do with it," he says.
Careless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense and carries a penalty of
three months to 364 days in jail, a fine of between $250 and $1,000 or both
10 to 90 days and a fine of $150 to $300 or both.
We've requested the police report of the incident, but haven't yet received it.
Sokolik tells us in an email that "somebody [is] leading you down the wrong path on this."
"Cintron was involved in a traffic crash and received a ticket, he was evaluated after a witness stated that they smelled alcohol, but he was not impaired," Sokolik writes. "It was well known that he was retiring sometime in the first half of this this year .... It is not unusual at all for someone to move that date around. I don’t believe there is any link between his retirement and the traffic accident."
Cintron, a Widefield High School grad, joined the department in 1985 and was promoted to commander in 2012. He couldn't be reached for comment.
Read more details in the Indy
This blog post has been updated to reflect changes and additions made based on information provided by the Police Department.