Since he took the job in December, Denver Police Chief Robert White has talked about transparency and change. On Tuesday, he announced a reorganization of the department, which includes putting the top jobs up for grabs.
"If they have an interest in their job, all of them will have to reapply," said White. "Some of them are doing a great job, so I would imagine that they would probably fare well into the process."
Two of four deputy chief positions are getting eliminated. Deputy Chiefs Michael Battista and John Lamb are out unless they reapply for a commander job.
"What were your concerns with Chief Batista and Chief Lamb?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.
"I had absolutely no concerns," said White. "I wanted to have the opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes and ears."
White made a point to recognize Battista for his work planning safety and security for the Democratic National Convention. White also pointed out that Lamb played a key leadership role in the development of the discipline matrix and making tough budget decisions.
"The thoughts behind the reorganization -- the belief is that it will put us in a position to be more effective, more efficient (and) more responsive to the citizens of our community, which will ultimately lead to a reduction in crime," said White.
Commanders To Have More Administrative Power
With two fewer deputy chiefs, those who get selected to be commanders will have less administrative oversight and more decision-making power at the substation level.
"We really wanted to empower them, give them more authority by eliminating a layer of command for them," said White.
White said they would also be held to a higher standard. Anyone with a rank of lieutenant or higher can apply for the commander jobs. There will be one commander for each of the city's six police districts, and likely 12 total commanders.
Changes Made To Improve Public Safety, Not Save Money
White told 7NEWS his reorganization of the department is with public safety and efficiency in mind.
"This organization was not about saving money. I think in the long term it certainly has the potential to save money," said White.
"Will these changes cost Denver taxpayers more money?" Zelinger asked city councilman Paul Lopez.
"You know, I hope not. I hope these changes are changes in efficiency," said Lopez.
Lopez is the chair of the committee that oversees public safety in Denver. He understands the city has a tight budget, but is open to spending more to feel safer.
"Can the city pay for more cars on the street, more equipment for these officers, to get more officers on the street?" asked Zelinger.
"It just depends. It just depends on how much we're able to save," said Lopez. "If it costs a little bit more money for our community to be a lot safer, and to have our community and police trust at a greater level than we ever had, I think it's worth it."
Chief: Officers Should Not Be Doing Jobs Civilians Could Do
To get more officers out from behind a desk and onto the street, White plans to use more civilians for jobs currently filled by officers.
"I am of the opinion, if it doesn't require a gun and badge, with rare exceptions, a police officer shouldn't be doing it," said White. "If you've been a victim of a property crime that occurred where it doesn't require a police officer with a gun and badge to get there, I envision us having a civilian that works for the police department that can actually come and take that report."
7NEWS wanted to know what kind of jobs civilians could do that officers currently do. Besides taking property crime reports, White also mentioned working the substation information desks, computer crimes and even crime scene investigations.
"What a technician makes versus what a civilian would make doing the same job, ballpark figure, it's a 20 percent savings," said White. "It's just being efficient, being effective (and) being good stewards of the taxpayer dollars."
Right now, 50 percent of Denver officers are on the street. White wants that number at 70 percent.
"How does this (reorganization) get to your 70 percent?" asked Zelinger.
"That's the beginning," said White. "If all of those pieces fall into place, that'll probably get us very close to the 70 percent."
"How do you address internal backlash to your ideas?" asked Zelinger.
"As it's brought to my attention, I articulate what we're doing and why we're doing it and we move on," said White. "I will tell you some of them agree with it and some of them don't necessarily agree with it, but I sincerely believe that it is absolutely in the best interest of our community."
Community To Have Input In New Commanders
The selection process for the new commanders will include input from community members. White has asked each of the 13 city council members to select a representative from their district to be part of the selection board.
"I am of the opinion that the community ought to have a voice as it relates to the district commanders," said White. "Not the final voice, as the chief, I should have the final voice."
Applicants for district commander must submit their materials by March 15. The selection board must provide White with a list of 12 candidates by March 23. He will pick his new district commanders by March 30.
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