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Derrick Saunders, Denver Police Officer, Could Be Reinstated After Driving Drunk At 143 Miles Per Hour

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A Denver Police Officer caught driving 88 miles per hour over the speed limit while intoxicated may get his job back. The decision, made by Denver's Civil Service Commission, overturns the Denver Manager of Safety's firing of the officer in 2011.

Officer Derrick Saunders was sentenced to 5 days in jail, fined $300, and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service after a Colorado State Patrol officer pulled him over in 2010 in his friend's 2007 Infinity coupe. Saunders had been driving at 143 mph on Gun Club Road in Arapahoe County, where the posted speed limit is 55 mph.

7News reported at the time that Saunders had a blood-alcohol level of .089 percent. The legal limit is .08 percent.

In his appeal to the Manager of Safety Alex Martinez, Saunders claimed his firing was disproportionate to the offense he'd committed and that Martinez had failed to take into account his employment history with the Denver Police Department.

After review, the Civil Service Commission found that, according to a "discipline matrix" used to categorize offenses, Saunders should have been suspended for 38-42 days--not fired. Accordingly, Martinez's decision to fire Saunders was overturned.

Denver Police Chief Robert White told 9News he disagrees with the commission's findings. "It compromises the integrity of the police officer. It really compromises and is a credibility issue for the many officers that are out there doing their job right and doing the right thing every single day," he told the station.

Responding to Saunders's potential reinstatement, Martinez wrote to the Denver Post,

"I believe this decision completely misinterprets the disciplinary code, undermines civilian authority to manage the police and uses the concept of consistent discipline to confine the department to the distant past, when courts punished drunk driving with small fines... We would never hire someone as a law enforcement officer who had engaged in this behavior."

CBS4 reports that Saunders had been investigated in 2009 for allegedly pulling his gun on a fast food employee.

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