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`Supercop' happy with life after scandal


Published June 23, 2001 at midnight

Daril Cinquanta is in the place he calls his ''ego room.''

In the basement of his home, somewhere in the western suburbs, Denver's most famous ex-Supercop is engulfed in his very own police museum.

There are frames filled with Cinquanta photos, Cinquanta medals and Cinquanta commendations. There's the uniform he was wearing the day an escaped convict shot him in the abdomen. It still has the evidence tag on it.

There are 50,000 discarded Denver police mug shots, some five decades old. There's a wall display of 108 bullets of various calibers, a pair of handcuffs and thumbcuffs, an English bobby's whistle and a collection of miniature pigs.

It is a testament to a man who loved being a cop, but who lost it all 12 years ago when he and his partner, Larry Subia, were accused of perjury and covering up for informants who participated in burglaries. It was one of the biggest scandals in the department's history.

The detectives faced numerous criminal counts. All were dismissed except for official misconduct, a misdemeanor. Both paid fines. Cinquanta, who suffers from lupus, retired with a disability pension. Subia was demoted to patrolman.

Cinquanta still maintains his innocence.

''It's evidence enough they dropped all the charges'' except the misdemeanor, Cinquanta said. ''I pled official misconduct to make it go away.''

Today, Cinquanta's life is full. He is an avid photographer, a motorcycle rider, president of the Jefferson County Aviation Association and past president of the Colorado Classic Thunderbird Club.

And he is a still a private eye in the flourishing business that he began right after he left the force.

''I make more than the chief of police,'' he said, who makes $115,000 a year, ''and I can sure live with that.''

Cinquanta regularly offers to employ suspended cops. Last year, he tried to hire Joseph Bini, who wrote the wrong address on an affidavit for a no-knock warrant that resulted in the death of a Mexican immigrant.

In January, Cinquanta and another private eye uncovered surveillance tapes that ultimately led to three arrests in the murder of a Saudi Arabian student who had been living in Denver.

Yes, at nearly 53 years old, Cinquanta is still chasing bad guys. But the one thing he can't do — the one thing he misses more than anything — is be a cop.

''Every day was an adventure. I loved playing cops and robbers. And I was good at it. I thought I was really making a difference. But what fun. I can't believe they paid me to do it.

''It was the best 20 years.''

Cinquanta and Subia were Denver's most famous crimefighting duo. Cinquanta was the more experienced, the Batman to Subia's Robin.

Subia is now a sergeant at District 1. He supervises six young officers who handle neighborhood narcotics complaints.

''I get a lot of gratification out of creating policemen,'' said Subia, 47. As for the scandal that nearly ended his career, he said, ''It's so far behind me. Life goes on.''

They were the ''supercops.'' Some meant it as a compliment. Others didn't.

Cinquanta liked the name. He even chose another for himself. In addition to the department's standard business cards, he printed up his own that listed his occupation as ''crimefighter.''

He had legions of admirers and detractors.

During his career, he was accused of mishandling evidence, lying about a suspect in an affidavit, lying on an arrest report, misusing informants and giving unbelievable testimony in court. He was demoted, suspended and ultimately forced out.

His admirers pointed to all the arrests he made for everything from drugs to murder. Even the DA who prosecuted him said Cinquanta caught more hard-core criminals than any cop in the state.

''Do you know how many people I put away?'' Cinquanta says in explaining why he doesn't want anyone to know exactly which ''western suburb'' he lives in.

He won the department's highest award, the Medal of Honor, for the time he was shot. He earned about 200 commendations, more than double the number of traffic tickets he wrote in his entire career, even though he was once assigned to the traffic division.

''I don't believe in writing tickets,'' he said. ''Now if it's drunk driving, that's a different story.''

Everyone, including Cinquanta himself, agrees he pushed the envelope.

''All good cops push the envelope,'' he said. ''I broke a lot of rules.''

Which rules?

''Most of 'em. If you're a policeman doing police work, you're going to break rules. If you think you're going to play totally by the book and catch bad guys, you're not.''

As a 24-hour-a-day cop, Cinquanta made his mark by building a vast network of informants. He studied thousands of criminals. He learned their nicknames and the names of their brothers, sisters and girlfriends. Finally, he decided it was too overwhelming and decided to concentrate on one group — Hispanics.

Today, some would call that racial profiling.

''It's not profiling,'' he said. ''It's taking a group of individuals in the city and trying to work them and be a more effective policeman.''

In the end, Cinquanta was accused of lying about confidential informants while working in the elite career criminal unit.

Even after all these years, Cinquanta still feels betrayed — especially by the man who was once his partner, former police chief Dave Michaud.

''It was wrong what he did — the way he tried to pursue us and find out things to help the administration. He was a wild horse rider. Like us. Everything that we did, he did. Did he take a pure pill like a lot of these other administrators?''

Michaud, who retired three years ago, declined to comment.

When Cinquanta left, nobody threw him a retirement party.

''It hurts. I admit it,'' he said. ''You spend 20 years with a group of guys and risk your lives together and share secrets and adventures together. You feel like they didn't think enough of you to do something nice for you.''

Cinquanta says he is writing a book about the Denver Police Department.

''It's a bombshell,'' he said. ''It tells all the inner mechanics of a big-city police department and how we really did stuff.''

It's called The Blue Chameleon. It names names. His lawyer put the kibosh on it. ''I'm not bulletproof. People will sue me just to save face.''

In his ego room, which doubles as Cinquanta's office, a green ''police department'' sign hangs above the door. The walls are lined with books like Serpico, The French Connection and The Onion Field.

There are many photos of fellow Denver cops. In their midst is a framed photo of a young woman. It is Cinquanta's mother, who abandoned him when he was a baby. He has never used his considerable investigative skills to track her down.

''Why would I want to stir the pot? I've got great friends, a good life,'' says Cinquanta, who is married with a grown daughter and two stepchildren. ''I don't need the aggravation.''

Cinquanta's favorite piece of police memorabilia is a big, black, old-fashioned call box. He opens it, then pries open a tiny door to reveal a secret compartment where, he says, cops walking their beats would stop and take a ''nip.''

''They were the wild horse riders,'' he said.

A few feet away is a framed, black-and-white photo of Cinquanta and Michaud walking along Larimer Street. It was taken sometime during the 1970s. Michaud is wearing a plaid sportcoat.

''Looks like he mugged a horse blanket,'' Cinquanta says.

He pauses.

''We were the baddest thing on the street.''

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