Mayor Hickenlooper Unveils Most Comprehensive Police Reforms in City History

Mayor Hickenlooper Unveils Most Comprehensive Police Reforms in City History


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Lindy Eichenbaum Lent

Mayor Hickenlooper Unveils Most Comprehensive Police Reforms in City History

Mayor John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday a series of sweeping reforms intended to change the way the Denver Police Department interacts with Denver’s citizens, to provide officers the training and tools they need to protect public safety, and to help Denver restore public confidence in its police force.

Standing alongside Manager of Safety Al LaCabe, Police Chief Gerry Whitman, City Attorney Cole Finegan, and Human Rights/Community Relations Director Lucia Guzman, Hickenlooper declared: “The time is long overdue for everyone in the Denver family, whether they are a resident or a police officer, to come together and create the critical balance that will protect both our public and our police. My Administration will not rest until this balance is restored.”

In the nearly five months since taking office, Hickenlooper and his team have met with community members, researched best practices from across the nation, and worked to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to broaden the scope of police training, increase the availability of tasers and “less lethal” weapons for officers, provide enhanced legal and mental-health training to the police, and add citizens to the board that reviews police shootings.

In other news, Hickenlooper will create a 90-day task force to examine proposals that would change the Police Department’s Use of Force Policy and civilian oversight.

“The changes we are implementing now will demonstrate our commitment to constructive actions to modernize the police department thereby protecting the safety of the general public and the officers themselves,” Hickenlooper said. “Many of these changes will require substantial additional resources. It will be difficult to find these funds in our current fiscal climate, but I look forward to working with City Council and the Police Department to find creative solutions. We will meet this challenge together.”

The City of Denver, its Department of Safety, and its Police Department are implementing the following changes:


1) Increase and Acceleration of CIT Training

Approximately 200 DPD officers have already been certified through the Crisis Intervention Team (“CIT”) process, the nationally acclaimed police training for approaching persons with mental illnesses or disabilities during emergency interactions. At Mayor Hickenlooper’s request, the Denver Police Department will - over the next two years - increase its number of CIT-trained officers to 500, which is 50% of the officers who, by serving in uniformed street assignments, are the first responders to calls from the public. This is double the statewide standard, which calls for 25% of first responders to be CIT-trained. Over the next 18 months, DPD will also expand supervisory training on critical incident management to all 200 sergeants. DPD also plans to implement CIT training in all incoming academy classes to ensure that, ultimately, all officers will be CIT-trained.

2) Accelerated Taser and “Less Lethal Shotgun” Training and Deployment

Mayor Hickenlooper has instructed DPD Chief Gerry Whitman to put Tasers into the hands of 100 additional on-duty patrol officers. With the 200 Tasers that DPD already has, every precinct car, tactical unit and supervisor are equipped with Tasers. The additional 100 Tasers will supply a Taser to every regularly scheduled patrol operations assignment. All personnel are already trained for Tasers.

Hickenlooper also instructed Whitman to begin training 200 officers to use the “less lethal shotguns” already owned by DPD. These weapons, which operate from farther distances than Tasers, will be used in the attempt to avoid lethal incidents.

3) Expand the Existing Firearms Discharge Board to Include Citizen Members

Mayor Hickenlooper announced that the Administration, for the first time, will add two community members to the Firearms Discharge Review Board, commonly known as the Shoot Board. The Board reviews investigations and makes recommendations to the Chief of Police as to whether a shooting incident was within departmental policy or if there was a policy violation.

4) Create a “Use of Force and Tactics Review Board”

The Manager of Safety and the Police Chief have agreed to create a board comprised of experienced law enforcement personnel to review all major incidents involving the use of force by Denver police officers regardless of whether a complaint was filed. The Board will make recommendations pertaining to the incident’s policy compliance and tactical safety with the intent of promoting officer safety and accountability through training and timely feedback.

5) Initiate a Manager of Safety Report

In order to serve the public interest and provide information about review processes, the Manager of Safety will issue a public report after any DPD incident involving use of force that results in a citizen’s death or serious bodily injury. While the District Attorney’s reports on these matters evaluate incidents in terms of criminal law, the Manager of Safety’s public report would analyze the incident in terms of departmental policy.

6) Assign a Lawyer and Mental Health Case Manager to Advise the Police Department and Help Develop New Training Procedures

For the first time, the City Attorney’s Office will assign an attorney on a full-time basis to work with the Denver Police Department. While DPD will continue to work with various lawyers in the City Attorney’s Office, the newly assigned lawyer will work solely with the Police Department to provide daily advice ensuring that public safety is a critical factor in any training, tactical or policy decisions.

Given that police officers are called upon as the first point of contact for many people in need, a Mental Health Case Manager also will work on a full-time basis with DPD to train its officers on interacting with the mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and people in crisis. New training procedures also will be used to assist officers in situations involving the use of force and citizens who may be mentally ill or developmentally disabled.

7) Hire Minority Recruiter

Given that community policing will only work if the police force can fairly say that it truly represents the entire community, a recruiter will be restored to DPD who will focus primarily on recruiting available minority candidates for DPD to ensure a more diverse police force.

8) Strengthen Community Relations

At Mayor Hickenlooper’s request, Lucia Guzman, Human Rights/Community Relations director, will facilitate forums between DPD and various community groups, focusing on cultural sensitivity, racial relations, and community policing standards. Manager of Safety LaCabe and Police Chief Whitman are also committed to expanding existing training for new officers with regard to cultural sensitivity and police-community relations. This expanded training will include citizen participants.

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In addition to these unprecedented actions, Mayor Hickenlooper will also create a 90-day task force consisting of citizens, public safety officials, elected officials and Cabinet members. Community leaders are expected to present Hickenlooper with a pool of possible participants by Thursday, December 18, 2003. The Mayor will choose from that pool, but will also supplement the Task Force with other community participants. On January 1, 2004, Hickenlooper will submit the following proposals to the Task Force, which will study the proposals and report back to the Mayor by April 1, 2004. The proposals, if implemented, would result in historic changes to Denver Police Department’s Use of Force Policy and civilian oversight.

Since August, Manager of Safety Al Lacabe, Police Chief Gerry Whitman, City Attorney Cole Finegan, and Chief of Staff Michael Bennet have reviewed practices and policies across America regarding the Use of Force and police oversight committees. At the Mayor’s instruction, they contacted and reviewed the protocols in over 50 jurisdictions and met with the Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance, City Council members, community leaders, Attorney General Ken Salazar and his staff, and with lawyers from District Attorney Bill Ritter’s Office. They reviewed the past studies done on DPD, including the Erickson Commission’s Report, the 1997 City Council Law Enforcement 2000, and the 2002 PSComm report, “Policing Denver.”

“Although we have done a great deal of work internally on our Use of Force policy and civilian oversight plans, I want to ensure that we have the best thinking of the community and the police before we actually implement changes to such critical aspects of our law enforcement system,” Hickenlooper said. “We know that some of these changes may require reworking our current laws to ensure that all of the provisions work closely together, but it is time to get going. We’ve had years of study; now we need to take action. Let me stress that we welcome a strong review of these proposals to help us make sure that we restore mutual trust between the community and the police.”

II. Proposals for Task Force Study and Recommendation for Use of Force Policy and Independent/Civilian Oversight of Police Actions

1) PROPOSAL: Preamble to the Use of Force Policy

A new preamble to be placed in the Use of Force Policy reinforcing DPD’s commitment to preserving human life and advocating that deadly force should only be employed when no other reasonable alternatives are available.

2) PROPOSAL: Language Regarding De-Escalation of the Use of Force

Language to be added to the Use of Force Policy clarifying that officers will have the option to de-escalate the use of force if they believe that de-escalation makes sense in the situation in which they find themselves.

3) PROPOSAL: New Public Safety Review Commission Model and Independent Monitor

After examining public safety review models from around the country, the Administration will ask the Task Force to review and discuss the proposed creation of an “independent monitor” to independently review police actions and report to the existing Public Safety Review Commission (PSRC) in certain situations. The proposed Office of the Monitor could function in the following manner:

  • Appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by City Council for a four-year term.
  • Requires a super-majority of City Council members to remove the Monitor.
  • Monitor could serve as an alternative forum to DPD where citizens can file complaints.
  • Monitor could attend all investigative interviews and be able to ask questions of the witnesses. During interviews with police officers, the Monitor could provide questions for investigators to ask.
  • Monitor could review the files for thoroughness to ensure there is supporting evidence.
  • Monitor could request further investigation if he/she is dissatisfied with the investigative results and could conduct unannounced inspections of citizen complaint files held by investigators to confirm that files are complete and that no information is withheld.
  • Monitor could have access to any DPD information relevant to a complaint.
  • Monitor could attend and observe the Discipline Review Board and would have total access to internal affairs files. The Chief of Police and Manager of Safety would still make all disciplinary decisions.
  • Monitor could report directly to the Mayor and City Council by publishing annual public reports that are presented to the City Council for approval.
  • If the Monitor disagrees with DPD’s findings, and the parties are unable to reach agreement, the Monitor could refer the case to the existing Public Safety Review Commission (PSRC).
  • Monitor could meet regularly with all interested and affected community organizations and groups.
  • Monitor could have annual budget of $500,000 for staff and operations. The office would be located separately from DPD.


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  • Posted on Dec 16, 2003 (Archive on Jan 15, 2004)
    Posted by kpellegrin  Contributed by kpellegrin