Dec 13, 2018
DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Executive Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs today announced the creation of the Public Integrity Division (PID), a civilian arm of the Department of Public Safety (DOS) that will be responsible for investigating complaints of misconduct for the Denver Sheriff Department (DSD) and reviewing investigations for potential rule violations.
“Our residents and deputies deserve fair and timely outcomes to these investigations and reviews, and the Public Integrity Division is an important step to ensuring that they are done quickly and with the utmost transparency and integrity,” Mayor Hancock said. “We want our deputies and command staff focused on operations and staffing core functions, and putting these resource intensive, specialized reviews into the hands of capable civilians will make a real impact.”
The announcement follows a review of data that was part of a performance improvement review of DSD’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) and Conduct Review Office (CRO) processes. The data showed many cases are opened for behavior that does not rise to the level of misconduct, which ultimately clogs the system and adversely impacts the department’s workload and ability to investigate serious complaints in a timely and efficient manner.
“I want to be clear that this change is not being made because the Sheriff Department isn’t meeting its responsibilities,” said Riggs. “The employees are shouldering a tremendous amount of work and are doing their best to meet acceptable timelines, but the design of the current process isn’t working, and we owe it to our employees and the community to find a workable solution.”
“We’re proud of the hard work and dedication the members of the Sheriff Department have shown as the department has continued down the path towards meaningful improvement and change,” Mayor Hancock said. “As a city, we remain committed to finding new and innovative ways to deliver services, and this new approach to how complaints will be investigated is the next step in this continuous improvement effort for the department.”
The initial focus of the PID will be to reduce the length of time it takes to process complaints; ensure complaints are investigated and reviewed in an equitable manner with fair outcomes; and enhance public and sheriff deputy confidence in the disciplinary process.
“These important goals support the integrity of the disciplinary process and the well-being of our employees who should not have the threat of a suspension or termination hanging over their heads for an extended period of time,” said Riggs.
Through a phased approach, the PID will assume the investigatory and review duties currently performed by the IAB and CRO of the Denver Sheriff Department. The duties will be assigned to two separate units under the PID – an Internal Affairs Unit and a Conduct Review Unit. The Sheriff’s authority in the discipline process will not change; the change is in the entity providing information upon which he will make disciplinary recommendations to the Executive Director’s office.
Existing staff will continue the daily work and assist with developing a transition plan. Ultimately, the civilian employees will be offered the opportunity to join the PID, and once it is fully operational in the second quarter of 2019, sworn staff will transition back to the sheriff department. However, a sworn employee will be assigned as a liaison to the PID.
In addition to investigating complaints against DSD, the PID will investigate complaints against high-ranking, sworn members of the Department of Public Safety. A recent case involving two executive leaders emphasized the need for a timely approach to investigating and reviewing allegations of misconduct against top brass.
The PID will be led by Deputy Director Eric Williams, a 12-year veteran of the FBI who Mayor Hancock appointed to work with Executive Director Riggs in June. Williams’ experience includes inspecting the FBI’s field offices to ensure compliance with the laws and guidelines governing highly complex federal investigations. Following his appointment, Riggs tasked Williams with working with DSD and providing direct oversight to Denver 9-1-1, Community Corrections, the Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver (GRID), and Public Safety Youth Programs. Williams will continue oversight of the agencies that directly report to him.
“I am honored for the opportunity to continue my service to the city by leading this new division,” said Williams. “Assigning the investigative and review duties of the Sheriff Department to a civilianized division dedicated solely to the performance of those functions will help improve outcomes, while allowing the Sheriff Department to focus on its core operations.”
Williams will be supported by a team of consultants including, Bob Troyer, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, who has extensive experience building relationships with law enforcement and the community.
“I am confident that the Public Integrity Division will become the national gold standard for integrity practices and I am proud to be a part of this important work,” said Troyer. “Working in close collaboration with Public Safety and the Sheriff Department, we are going to bring needed, lasting and effective change.”
The establishment of the PID conforms to DOS’s efforts to civilianize public safety positions that do not require a badge or uniform, and aligns with recommendations for improvement DSD has received.
In 2012, the DOS began hiring civilians to staff DPD’s CRO, which is fully civilianized today except for a Commander who oversees the work. In 2014, the DOS contracted civilian investigators to work in DSD’s IAB. Additional civilians were subsequently hired to staff DSD’s CRO and the civilian contactors assisting with investigations where retained on a permanent basis. Today, 11 of the 19 employees assigned to DSD IAB are civilian and 5 of the 9 employees assigned to the CRO are civilian. The city is also currently reviewing applications for a civilian position to lead the Internal Affairs Unit.
In May 2015, a report issued by OIR Group included a recommendation that encouraged the city to maintain its commitment to staffing Internal Affairs with senior investigators hired from outside the Department to bring necessary investigative expertise to the Bureau. In March 2018, the OIM included a recommendation to move the management of IAB under civilian control.