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Denver Releases Independent Recommendations to Reform the Sheriff Department

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Executive Director of Public Safety Stephanie O’Malley and Sheriff Elias Diggins today joined members of the independent assessment team to release its comprehensive report for reform of the Denver Sheriff Department, and to launch the search for Denver’s next Sheriff.

The Mayor outlined the immediate steps and long-term priorities that the administration will tackle.
View the assessment report.

“This independent report provides a thorough reform roadmap for the Sheriff Department,” Mayor Hancock said. “From the depth of this report you can see that we are setting a high bar here, but one that I believe this administration, the men and women who serve every day in the department, and the Denver community are committed to delivering on. We have made initial, necessary changes to create a better Sheriff Department, now we turn to developing a long-term implementation plan and finding a strong leader who will take helm.”

“I want to thank the community, the reform executive steering committee and the assessment team for their unwavering engagement in the evaluation of the Sheriff Department,” Hancock said.

Over the past several months, the assessment team and its experts have dug deep into every aspect of the operation and organizational structures of the Denver Sheriff Department. That work resulted in more than 270 recommendations that span across considerations of leadership, supervision, strategic planning, organization and administration, jail management and operations, staffing and performance optimization, training, human resources, technology, emergency preparedness, use of force and internal affairs.

“The Sheriff Department clearly has challenges and opportunities ahead to become a more efficient and effective department,” said Executive Director Stephanie O’Malley. “By making needed adjustments to leadership and accountability, taking the time to revise its strategic plan, mission, and vision, executing professional correction services, and implementing reforms and recommendations outlined, the department will be transformed.”

An internal Implementation Team, led by Executive Director O’Malley, will immediately begin to develop an action plan that prioritizes the multitude of recommendations from the independent report, the Phase 1 reform effort and the 2015 Jail Operations Audit conducted by the City Auditor.

The team is comprised of individuals who will be tasked with implementing the recommendations. Members of the team are:

  • Stephanie O’Malley, Executive Director of Public Safety
  • Sheriff Elias Diggins, Denver Sheriff
  • Nick Mitchell, Independent Monitor
  • Scott Martinez, City Attorney
  • Brendan Hanlon, Budget Director
  • Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez, Dist. 3 and Chair of the Committee on Safety and Well-being
  • Mike Jackson,  President of Denver Sheriff Lodge 27
  • Shawn Smith, Peak Performance staff

The Implementation Team will give immediate priority to recommendations focused on:

  • Leadership and performance accountability;
  • Professional correction services;
  • Accountability for violations of department policies, procedures, department and post orders;
  • Staffing related to reducing overtime and properly deploying existing sworn personnel; and
  • Safety for deputies and inmates.

“Our department takes the assessment findings and recommendations very seriously, and we stand ready to further participate in the reform implementation process,” said Sheriff Elias Diggins.

The Sheriff Department has already implemented several changes that are in the independent report, including:

  • Providing regular training to deputies on how to prepare use of force reports and to sergeants on how to review them to ensure compliance with current DSD use of force reporting policy;
  • Working cooperatively with the Office of Human Resources to increase accountability and transparency during the recruitment and hiring process to help rebuild community trust in the process and retain better prepared and informed candidates;
  • Requiring Majors to review all completed grievances to assess the quality of grievance responses and provide corrective actions if grievances are not seriously addressed;
  • Modifying the inmate grievance form to better monitor whether DSD is complying with established time frames to resolve complaints;
  • Translating grievance and sick call forms into Spanish and making them readily available to Spanish-speaking inmates;
  • Re-training employees in accordance with the requirement to conduct staggered visual checks every 30 minutes and make supervisors responsible for ensuring the requirement is met;
  • Creating a cadre of sergeants at each jail facility specifically trained to conduct force investigations and reviews; and
  • Assigning a sergeant to view video evidence so they can adequately conduct an initial force investigation and review.

These improvements are in addition to the following recommendations implemented during Phase 1 of the reform effort:

  • Contracting former Sheriff Grayson Robinson to lead the Internal Affairs Bureau on an interim basis to provide leadership and to recommend improvements.
  • Hiring six on-call investigators with law enforcement experience who were subsequently hired on a permanent basis.
  • Eliminating the existing IAB case log and implementing procedures to enhance the way investigators document the collection of evidence and compile reports.
  • Establishing a new, more robust retention policy for video footage recorded in Denver’s jails.
  • Improving the inmate grievance process.

About the Assessment Team
Formed in 2004, Hillard Heintze specializes in ethics, integrity and oversight services for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies including police departments and Internal Affairs Bureaus.  Headquartered in Chicago with operations in Washington, D.C., Miami, San Jose, Calif., and Virginia Beach, Va., Hillard Heintze is composed of former sheriffs, police chiefs, command staff, investigators, special agents and detectives who focus on achieving strategic and transformational levels of excellence in law enforcement, security and investigations.

OIR Group has 13 years of experience in conducting analyses and reviews of law enforcement organizational structures; Internal Affairs Bureaus; entities responsible for making disciplinary recommendations; corrections and use of force procedures and processes; and supervision and training. OIR Group is a confederation of professionals who have provided extensive independent review and consultation to law enforcement agencies and governmental agencies at the state, county and municipal level as well as to federal courts.