Denver independent monitor: Denver Sheriff's Office investigated 9 of 54 'serious' inmate complaints

Denver independent monitor recommends changes

DENVER - Denver's independent monitor says the Denver Sheriff's Department failed to follow policy in investigating 45 serious allegations of deputy misconduct during the past two years, including inmate claims that deputies choked them, sexually harassed them and used racial slurs. 

Concerns and recommendations were included in a 78-page report released by Denver's Independent Monitor, Nicholas Mitchell.  The Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM)  conducted a policy and practice review of the inmate grievance process in the Denver Sheriff's Department (DSD).

According to the Denver Sheriff's Department, between Jan. 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013,  approximately 6,000 grievances were filed by inmates in the Denver jail system.  The OIM reviewed 861 written inmate complaints from that time frame.

Of the 861 grievances reviewed by the OIM, 54 were classified as "serious," and include allegations of inappropriate force, biased conduct and sexual misconduct.  The majority of  serious allegations of officer misconduct made by inmates to the DSD were never investigated by the Denver Sheriff's Department's Internal Affairs Bureau.  The department's internal affairs bureau handled 9 of the 54 cases. 

In the OIM report, Mitchell writes, "Under DSD (Denver Sheriff's Department) policy, allegations of serious misconduct are to be referred to and investigated by the DSD Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB).  However, 45 of the complaints of serious misconduct -- including allegations of inappropriate force, non-consensual sexual touching, and biased behavior by deputies -- did not result in IAB cases."

7NEWS has confirmed that the Denver Sheriff's Department's department of corrections will conduct a second investigation, through the Internal Affairs Unit, of the grievances highlighted in the OIM report.  

Denver County Sheriff's Office spokesman Major Frank Gale told 7NEWS, "If we determine that any officers engaged in misconduct, there will be discipline."

Another concern addressed in the OIM report is related to a Denver city ordinance that requires the Denver Sheriff's Department to notify his office of allegations of officer misconduct made by inmates.

"Our examination of the grievance process revealed that during the period of our review, the DSD did not routinely notify the OIM of allegations of deputy misconduct contained in inmate grievances, as required," Mitchell states.

According to Mitchell's report, of the 861 written grievances reviewed by the OIM, "None had been completed in either Spanish or other languages common to Denver’s immigrant communities. The DSD may be able to provide broader and more inclusive access to the grievance process by making grievance forms available in languages that are common to inmates who are not yet English proficient."

"That's absolutely under consideration," said Gale.

In a statement released to 7NEWS,  the Denver Sheriff's Department's Director of Corrections, Gary Wilson, stated, "The DSD has always welcomed review of our policies and practices by outside organizations as evidenced by our  voluntary participation in three separate accreditation awards.  We look forward to working with the OIM to improve upon our goals of the inmate grievance process."