Denver's police chief plans a restructuring of the department that will save about $5 million a year and put more officers on the streets.
Chief Robert White says the changes will begin with commanders at each of the city's six police districts. Hundreds of officers in administrative positions will be reassigned to street duty.
White's changes come at a time when the city is trying to increase public confidence in a department rocked by several high-profile excessive force cases. Mayor Michael Hancock, who hired White from the Louisville, Ky., police department, is seeking to close a $30 million to $50 million budget gap.
"The backbone of policing is patrol," White said in a podcast to officers that was released Friday on the police department website
In what he called a strategic realignment, White says he wants 70 percent of Denver's 1,445 uniformed police officers patrolling the streets. Currently, 48 percent of the police force patrols the streets.
"That's not a good equation," White said.
White billed the initiative as a way to encourage the community to work with police.
"If we create the right environment for (patrol officers), they're in the best position to serve our community," he said. "They're in the best position to get those eyes and ears of those 600,000 residents
to get them engaged and get them willing to work with us."
White said it's critical to appoint patrol commanders who can motivate their officers and "understand that the community is the greatest resource that we have."
"(Residents) got to know who their commander is. They've got to believe in their commander," White said. "They've got to participate in how things are done as it relates to their safety."
The chief said he wants to free more officers to work the streets by hiring civilians to takeover jobs like writing minor auto accident reports, where a citation won't be issued.
Hancock recently told The Associated Press that precincts in need of more officers include downtown and the fast growing Stapleton and Green Valley Ranch districts.
David Edinger, Hancock's chief performance officer, reviewed the department for former Manager of Safety Al LaCabe, who recommended the changes.
White promised more details by April. One change, he suggested, would allow citizens to file vehicle accident reports.
The expected moves have caused a stir within the department.
Denver shelled out an average of $900,000 each year between 2008 and 2011 to settle excessive force lawsuits. Four officers have been reinstated after being fired in two high profile excessive force cases. The city is appealing the reinstatements.
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