The most recent news in the Derek Colling case is interesting, if predictable. As regular readers know, Colling, a Las Vegas Metro serial killer, made his mark on Laramie, WY when he killed a former high school classmate, Robbie Ramirez. The Colling case archive is available here. The local prosecutor declined to prosecute, and there is no news on a potential civil suit, but Albany County Sheriff David O’Malley appears to be backtracking on his stalwart support of his decision to hire Colling. The Laramie Boomerang reports:
While Albany County Sheriff’s deputy Derek Colling remains on administrative leave, Sheriff David O’Malley said the controversial deputy is likely to return to work eventually.
However, O’Malley told the Laramie Boomerang in a Monday email Colling is likely to be transferred out of patrol work.
‘When Corporal Colling returns to work, he will likely be assigned as a second investigator position,’ O’Malley said. ‘I have worked towards having a second investigator for years and recent funding through the Boswell Springs Wind Project Industrial Siting funds will now allow that. Corporal Colling has the background and experience that would fit well in that position.
And what background and experience would this be? An undistinguished and brief career as a patrolman, spattered with the blood of two shootings in Las Vegas, capped by being fired for an unprovoked, brutal beating of an innocent citizen, followed by lodging false charges against him and falsifying reports—lying? Perhaps it was a brief time in Laramie as a jailer and patrol officer? Or was it his killing of Ramirez that convinced Sheriff O’Malley Colling is just the man for a detective position?
O’Malley said he received DCI’s investigation materials Monday and is in a review process. He said he has not received any of the grand jury transcripts.
While the hiring practices of O’Malley’s office are governed by the Wyoming Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, O’Malley is currently working with the Daigle Law Group on a review of his use of force policies and other related issues.
Normal police procedure is for officers involved in shootings to remain on administrative leave until every issue—criminal and departmental—is resolved. Rational police administrators want to be sure all issues are resolved, and they can reasonably put such officers back on duty without endangering the public or bringing down massive civil liability on themselves and the citizens they represent. The boomerang story implies this will not be the case.
Details of Colling’s future were confirmed after Albany County for Proper Policing issued a press release Sunday regarding a meeting the group’s leaders had with O’Malley on Thursday. O’Malley said he had not expected ACoPP would publicize their discussions.
The Laramie group was created in the wake of Ramirez’s death and suggested in the press release that ‘Colling’s return to work threatens the element of trust between officers and the community that is necessary for proper law enforcement.
Why would O’Malley reassign Colling as a detective? Detective work is normally regarded as a desirable assignment, reserved for those experienced officers that have shown unusual devotion to duty, as well as real investigative talent. Depending on where an officer is on the pay scale, it may or may not be a promotion in pay, but it is always a significant promotion in prestige, and a career enhancer. Even detectives below a Sgt. or Lt. in rank are in control of crime scenes when they’re called out, and higher-ranking officers must normally defer to them.
I certainly don’t know every detail of Colling’s service, but what is publically known suggests O’Malley’s decision is not primarily based on Colling’s obvious investigative performance and potential. What is most likely is O’Malley finds himself in an uncomfortable position of his own making. In strongly defending his decision to hire Colling, despite a past that would make him radioactive to virtually any police executive, O’Mally makes it impossible to admit error. This was exacerbated by his unstinting praise of Colling, which depicted him as the epitome of police skill and virtue.
It’s well known in law enforcement that people who are too incompetent and/or dangerous to be on the street, but are beloved by the upper echelons, are often transferred or promoted into jobs where they have little or no direct contact with the public. In some cases, it is no more than administrators not wanting their foolishness in hiring and retaining dangerous incompetents to become widely known. Such people then become enormous burdens on competent police officers, but they’re less likely to beat or kill anyone, thus getting the chief or sheriff in trouble.
Why doesn’t O’Malley just assign Colling to the jail, or paperwork duties, perhaps animal control? That would be rather a clear admission, wouldn’t it? How could he do that to the paragon of police virtue?
I’ll continue to follow the case and will report on new developments. I leave it to you, gentle readers, to determine Sheriff O’Malley’s likely motives.