Mayor Hancock talks to 7NEWS about jail abuse settlement, overhaul of Denver Sheriff's Office

DENVER - In a one-on-one interview with 7NEWS, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock discussed the recent cases of inmates allegedly abused at the city jail at the hands of sheriff's deputies.

The interview comes as more specifics about his plan to overhaul the Denver Sheriff's Office are set to be announced Thursday, including the appointment of James H. Davis, a former FBI agent-in-charge in Denver and a public safety expert, as an advisor.

"At the end of the day, who is accountable?" asked 7NEWS Reporter Marc Stewart. 

"I think we're all accountable," said Hancock. "Certainly as Mayor, I feel a great deal responsibility to get it right."

Yet, just 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. One of many settlements approved since Hancock took office.

"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," asked Stewart.

"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," said Hancock.

"Will you, or a council member or someone call Mr. Hunter and others and say I'm sorry and reach out?" asked Stewart.

"You know, let me say, I haven't made that transition point to make the personal phone call to Mr. Hunter. I'm not opposed to having a conversation with Mr. Hunter," Hancock said.

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. He and I talked. He was very forthcoming about what happened to him as a young man."

Diggins pleaded guilty 18 years ago to a misdemeanor after lying to a judge about having insurance.

"What was it in your conversation with the interim sheriff that gave you comfort that he could accept this position with that past?" asked Stewart.

"You know, you need to understand that when I as mayor, peak into how I think, I'm constantly watching city employees," said Hancock. "My observation of Elias Diggins didn't just begin when I decided to make a change with in the Sheriff's Department."

Hancock has been part of efforts to prompt change within the Sheriff's Office for years, including a set of reforms known as Emily's Protocols, after Emily Rice died in custody.

"But what is there still to know? Can you pinpoint what the problem is today? Or is that still unknown to you?" asked Stewart. 

"I don't think there's a silver bullet here. It's not just one thing that lead you this point," said Hancock.

The mayor 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.

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