A new report questions whether Denver Police Chief Robert White violated internal rules when he did not share a letter written last year by the district attorney that criticized his deputy chief.
As Denver7 Investigates was first to report in January, former District Attorney Mitch Morrissey sent that letter last May criticizing Deputy Chief Matt Murray’s handling of an internal investigation of rape allegations against a police officer. Police arrested that officer and a woman accused of being an accomplice to the assault, but soon released them both when the DA declined to press charges. Morrissey’s strongly-worded letter accused Murray and the department of ignoring protocol and rushing to judgment before arresting “an innocent woman.”
Denver7 Investigates has confirmed Chief White did not share that letter with the Office of the Independent Monitor and the department did not open a formal internal investigation into Morrissey’s allegations.
Now the Denver Post is raising questions over whether the chief violated internal policy. The Post report says the department’s operations manual dictates that all allegations of serious misconduct should be reported to the Office of the Independent Monitor within three days.
Independent monitor Nick Mitchell told the Post he was not aware of the letter until eight months after it was sent, when Denver7 Investigates ran a story about it.
“I guarantee if the district attorney had written a letter about any other officer, it would have been sent to internal affairs and a case would have been opened immediately,” Bryan O’Neill, the police union’s vice president, told the Post. “For years, this chief and deputy chief have pushed transparency and accountability — their two favorite words — on everybody in the department. This is a clear example that they’re not adhering to their own principles.”
Murray told Denver7 Investigates the chief asked him about the allegations in the letter after receiving it. Murray said that while he was involved in the decision to arrest the former officer, he was out of town the next day when police arrested the alleged accomplice. Murray said it was not his decision to arrest the accomplice, and the chief did not discipline him because the facts in the letter were wrong.
“When the chief called me in, as he told Mr. Morrissey he was going to, and he heard the facts of this case, he was also very comfortable with the decisions I made and the decisions the department made,” Murray said.
The city’s director of public safety requested an independent investigation into the situation after Denver7’s reports aired. Denver’s current district attorney, Beth McCann, has also opened an investigation into whether DPD violated open records laws when it did not turn over Morrissey’s letter in response to two records requests from the union.