Denver Police Chief pushing forward with plans to replace officers in crime lab with civilians

Robert White wants badged officers on the street

DENVER - Denver Police Chief Robert White says he's trying to streamline the department, and improve its ability to fight crime.

Part of that plan involves replacing seasoned veterans in the Crime Lab with civilians.

The officers would be shifted to other positions -- detectives, technicians and patrol officers.

“We sort of have the philosophy that if it doesn’t require a gun and badge, we should be asking ourselves, ‘Why are we having police officers doing it?’” White said.

The Chief said it’s important to put as many officers as possible out on the streets, to make them safer.

“We get paid to prevent crime,” he said. ‘The essence of doing that is being able to partner with the community and getting the resources out here where the issues are.”

White said civilians can be trained to collect evidence.

They already have been in numerous other communities including Dallas, San Antonio and Austin in Texas, Salt Lake City, Louisville Kentucky, Miami and Philadelphia.

Salt Lake City Police Department spokesman Dennis McGowan told 7NEWS that that SLCPD’S crime lab is made up entirely of civilians.

When asked if they’ve had any issues with an all-civilian crime lab, McGowan said, “No.”

7NEWS asked White if civilians will compromise investigations in Denver.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I will tell you that the civilians that will be there, will be very professional, well trained and will do just a good a job, and some may say even better, because that will be their only focus.”

7NEWS checked and found that the amount of training required for the new hires will vary with each individual.

A potential civilian hire from another police department won’t require as much training as someone without previous police work.

Many departments require an Associate or undergraduate degree in Police Science, or a related field.

White said DPD is still trying to determine whether to require a college degree.

When asked how soon he wants to make the changes, White said, “By the end of the year.”

White added, “We have to make sure that (new hires) are well trained and that if the schedule that we have projected is correct, we’ll stick with it. If it’s not, if we need to modify it, we’ll modify it.”

Denver Police provided a comparison analysis of 11 police departments that use civilians in the crime lab.

It shows that salaries range from $34,000 on the low end in Philadelphia to $110,000 on the upper end in Los Angeles.

The Chief said hiring civilians in the crime lab will actually save money because civilians make less pay than officers.

“I can hire 110 new officers and 15 civilians and save $350,000.  Without the civilians, I’d have to hire 125 new officers,” he said.


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