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DENVER – A Seattle man says the Uber car he was riding in was pulled over by a police officer who insisted the car service was illegal in Colorado – even though it was actually the first state to explicitly legalize the service.

The chief of Denver's police made a public apology to the passenger Monday and said the incident was under investigation.

Dave Cook, a geologist, said the stop on July 18 was full of "bizarre twists and turns," and he described in a lengthy essay how uncomfortable he felt with the officer's actions. Cook said his UberX driver was ultimately cited for speeding near Denver International Airport. Cook said the officer asked to see the Uber driver's license, as well as his own license, even though he was a passenger.

"It was about this time that I started to get concerned about my own status. Why? The officer said that Uber was illegal and what the driver and I were doing was against the law," Cook wrote in a post on GeekWire, an independent technology news site co-founded by his brother.

"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."

Colorado law

Gov. John Hickenlooper on June 5 signed a law granting companies like Uber and Lyft specific permission to operate in Colorado. The law, which took effect immediately, requires certain levels of insurance and safety inspections for drivers using their personal cars to chauffer riders.

Uber and Lyft work by connecting passengers directly with drivers via smartphone apps. There is no central dispatch like a taxi service, and riders cannot flag down drivers. Uber has several levels of service. UberX, which Cook was taking, is the cheapest because drivers use their personal cars. UberBlack, which is more expensive, features drivers in government-licensed town cars or limos.

Uber drivers are covered by large insurance policies when they're working: "From the time a driver accepts a trip request through our app until the completion of the ride, our partners have $1 million of coverage for driver liability," Uber officials said in a blog post earlier this year. "...This coverage kicks in regardless of whether the driver's personal insurance applies to the trip. We have also added contingent comprehensive and collision insurance during trips, up to $50,000/incident with a $1,000 deductible."

Police chief apologizes

In a letter sent to Cook and made available publicly, Denver Police Chief Robert White called the incident "concerning" and said the officer's conduct was under investigation. White said the officer's description of what happened corroborated what Cook wrote.

"...I would like to publicly apologize for any inconvenience or frustration we may have caused you," White told Cook. "The Denver Police Department fully embraces Colorado state law -- including the new law regarding Uber taxi services."

In his post, Cook said he took a taxi into Denver from the airport the day before.

"That cabbie was driving while talking on the phone, had an earpiece in his ear and a GPS unit on the dashboard. As a result, he ran a stop sign and we almost were T-boned by a large pickup truck. I was charged over $60 for that trip. The Uber trip? $37.44," Cook wrote. "I don't look forward to returning to Denver, but when I do, I'm taking Uber."

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