Denver Mayor Hancock releases outline of 'top-to-bottom review' of Denver Sheriff's Department

DENVER - After a series of embarrassing lawsuits and the departure of the sheriff, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has released an outline of a "top-to-bottom review" of the Denver Sheriff's Department.

Hancock's office announced at 9 a.m. that an executive committee has been established and is now directed to oversee task forces that are already reviewing policy and procedures, training, discipline and staffing at the Sheriff's Department. 

"The committee will also oversee a Peak Performance review of efficiency and effectiveness in the department as well as lead efforts to identify a new sheriff and an independent third-party consultant to conduct a comprehensive review of the DSD," said the news release from the Mayor's office.

The four task forces mentioned were created in the spring as the Denver Office of Human Resources was also assigned to do an organizational assessment of the department. Reports on their efforts will be due to the executive committee sometime during the fall, Hancock's office said.

Additionally, Hancock announced a contract with former FBI agent-in-charge in Colorado and public safety expert, James H. Davis. He was hired to "provide independent expertise to the Mayor."

"Davis will help locate the best qualified outside firm(s) to conduct an independent review of the DSD and to identify a change agent to take the helm of the department," the news release stated.

Denver has also selected a law firm to review litigation practices of the City Attorney's Office in the lawsuits.

Earlier this week, the Denver City Council approved a record $3.25 million settlement after a video emerged that showed deputies choking former inmate Jamal Hunter. It is just one of many settlements approved since Hancock took office.

7NEWS Reporter Marc Stewart asked the mayor Wednesday, "In these settlements there is no admission of guilt. I'm wondering if you think if any of these individuals whose cases have come forward deserve a public apology from the city?"

"I think (with) every case that we are taking a look at, the public in general and everyone involved in these cases deserve an apology," replied Hancock.

The mayor said he is committed to reform, yet just last month he installed Elias Diggins as interim sheriff even though he had a criminal past.

"Did you know that going into this?" asked Stewart.

"I did absolutely," the mayor answered. "He and I talked. He was very forthcoming about what happened to him as a young man."

During Stewart's one-on-one interview, Hancock said he's spent time addressing deputies during their roll calls on many issues. He said he also wants to make it easier to terminate deputies who cross the line.

In another recent interview, Denver Safety Director Stephanie O'Malley said she's striving to create a fair but efficient system for reviewing more than 100 disciplinary cases at the troubled Denver Sheriff's Department.

Full statement from the Mayor's Office:

DENVER - Mayor Michael B. Hancock today announced details of a top-to-bottom review of policies, training and quality control at the Denver Sheriff Department (DSD). 

An executive committee has been established and is charged with overseeing task forces that are reviewing policy and procedures, training, discipline and staffing at the Sheriff Department.  The committee will also oversee a Peak Performance review of efficiency and effectiveness in the department as well as lead efforts to identify a new sheriff and an independent third-party consultant to conduct a comprehensive review of the DSD.

The executive committee has committed to provide clear communication and regular updates to the community on internal and external reviews underway and those that will take place over the next several months. 

“Everything is on the table,” Mayor Hancock said.  “This team will create a full action plan by year’s end to turn around this department and make it one we can all be proud of.”

James H. Davis, a respected law enforcement and criminal justice professional, has been contracted to provide independent expertise to the Mayor and the committee regarding correctional reform. 

Davis will help locate the best qualified outside firm(s) to conduct an independent review of the DSD and to identify a change agent to take the helm of the department. 

Davis served in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s cabinet as executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety and as his Homeland Security adviser.  Previously, Davis served 26 years in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, retiring as Special Agent in Charge of the Denver Division responsible for all investigative, intelligence and administrative operations for the FBI in Colorado and Wyoming. Davis is founder and CEO of Ascent Risk Solutions, a Denver-based security and risk management firm.

The first stage of the reform process was initiated in the spring with the forming of four task forces comprised of 47 community members and city stakeholders.  The Denver Office of Human Resources also undertook an organizational assessment of the department.  A report based on both efforts will be submitted to the executive committee in the fall that will put forth recommendations for short-term actions and long-term changes for consideration. 

Meanwhile, the Mayor has also deployed a Peak Performance team into the Sheriff Department to review efficiency and effectiveness in the department while conducting a preliminary assessment of staffing and processes that will establish a baseline for the independent third-party review.

Davis and the executive committee are working to engage the independent consultant to review the Denver Sheriff Department’s policies, training and quality control. This independent consultant will receive all of the initial assessments above as well as conduct its own review in order to provide final recommendations for reform.

As the city announced earlier this week, it has already selected the law firm of Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP as an outside independent firm to review best practices and litigation protocols of the City Attorney’s Office, including specific actions taken in regard to the Jamal Hunter case.

Presently, Rothgerber is at work exploring the City Attorney’s Office’s litigation practice to establish a scope of work that will soon be codified through a contracting process. The review will include the following:

  • Protocols for handling and supplementing discovery in civil actions;
  • Protocols related to ongoing internal affairs investigations in the city; and
  • Best practices related to professional development in the City Attorney’s Office.
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