Oversight in Denver


The Department of Public Safety (DOS) is headed by the Executive Director of Public Safety (EDOS) and staffed with civilians. The EDOS is a Mayoral appointee and is responsible for, among other things, managing the Denver Fire Department (DFD), Denver Police Department (DPD), Denver Sheriff Department (DSD), and the 911 Emergency Communications Division.  DFD, DPD and DSD are all headed by Mayoral appointees as well. 

Public safety employees fall into one of  two groups: civilian employees and those with badges and guns, who are sometimes called sworn, uniformed, or classified service employees. Here, we’ll refer to them collectively as “uniformed personnel.” This group contains approximately 1,600 police officers, 875 sheriff deputies, and 15 fire investigators. 

Misconduct Complaints

Any member of the community can file a complaint against any uniformed personnel that they believe may have acted improperly. Complaints can be filed anonymously and can be made by anyone, including witnesses or those who heard about an incident from someone else. Complaint topics can include disrespectful treatment, improper use of force, or any other allegation against specific uniformed personnel, regardless of whether the complainant knows their name(s) or badge number(s). Complaints can be provided to the Citizen Oversight Board (COB), the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM), or directly with departments’ internal investigative offices. The easiest way to file a complaint or commendation related to the DPD or DSD is through the OIM’s online form. The DFD has an online form available as well. 

Historically, both DPD and DSD had their own internal affairs offices that were responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct concerning uniformed personnel and recommending appropriate discipline. This is still the case for the DPD, which has both an Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) responsible for initial screening of complaints, gathering evidence, and conducting interviews and a Conduct Review Bureau (CRB, often also referred to as the Conduct Review Office or CRO) responsible for evaluating the evidence and making initial disciplinary recommendations. However, the DSD’s internal affairs division was replaced in 2019 by a new Public Integrity Division (PID) within the DOS. The PID consists of an Administrative Investigations Unit (AIU) and a Conduct Review Unit (CRU), which have responsibilities similar to their DPD counterparts. While complaints can come in through many channels, complaints about the DSD go first to AIU, then CRU, and then to the Sheriff. Complaints about the DPD go first to IAB, then CRB, and then to the Chief of Police. While notices of improvement and reprimands can be issued by the Chief, Sheriff, or EDOS, the EDOS is responsible for the final decision on any discipline for uniformed personnel more severe than a reprimand. This process is the same regardless of whether a complaint is initially submitted to the Board, the OIM, the DSD’s Grievance and Incident Review Team (GIRT), or directly to AIU or IAB. 

After the EDOS makes the department’s final discipline decision, police officers and fire investigators are able to appeal that decision to the Civil Service Commission. Sheriff deputies and most civilian employees can similarly appeal to the Career Service Board. They can all further appeal their decisions to the formal court system as well, if they believe their discipline violated state or federal laws.


The OIM and the Citizen Oversight Board were created in 2004 in order to ensure public trust in Denver’s internal misconduct investigations of uniformed personnel. Their creation was part of reforms that were demanded in the wake of the 2003 fatal police shooting of Paul Childs, a developmentally disabled teenager. OIM staff may monitor all aspects of the investigatory and disciplinary process and typically do so by reviewing records and making recommendations after each step of the process. This includes reviewing cases that the departments wish to close after an initial screening and approving their early closure. If the OIM so chooses, they can also “actively monitor” a case. If the OIM actively monitors a case, they can attend any related interview or hearing, and generally do. They may make recommendations throughout that process. If the investigating unit declines the OIM’s recommendations, the OIM has the authority to conduct its own supplemental investigation.

As a result, Denver residents can have faith that their complaints will be handled properly, that the resulting investigation is thorough, and that those in charge hear an independent perspective before they make any disciplinary decisions. 

The Citizen Oversight Board is not directly involved in each step of the investigatory and disciplinary process like the OIM, but is able to review confidential records and provide recommendations for both specific cases and general policies as it sees fit. The Board is also tasked with independently evaluating the effectiveness of the OIM. As of November 2021, the Board became responsible for selecting the head of the OIM as well. 

A flowchart representing the discipline procedures previously described on this page.

Historical Context