Audit of Denver law enforcement complaints and discipline during 2012 largely positive

Police handled complaints faster in 2012 than 2011

DENVER - After his first full year as Denver's Chief of Police, Robert White received a glowing review from the Office of the Independent Monitor, the city agency that audits the police and sheriff's departments.

While the annual report is required to tally the number of complaints against officers and how they were handled, it specifically praises Chief White's changes to the disciplinary process. One of those changes was the creation of the Conduct Review Office, which is credited with streamlining disciplinary decisions.

The report also praises the work of Commander Mary Beth Klee, who was appointed to head the Internal Affairs Bureau by White. Klee was credited with requiring her staff to complete most investigations within 30-days.


"These changes appear to be bearing fruit," the report said.

In fact, the report shows that the mean and median length of time for post-investigation findings and discipline was the lowest since 2006.

The Office of the Independent Monitor also had positive things to say about the new leadership of the Denver Sheriff's Department's Internal Affairs Bureau, despite a 52 percent increase in the time it took them to review complaints during 2012.

"Although Captain [Deric] Wynn has been in place for only a short time, we have already been impressed by his commitment to ensuring effective, high-quality investigations," the report said.

-- Handling Of Complaints --

The Denver Police Department saw a slight increase in the number of complaints in 2012, compared to 2011. Meanwhile, the Denver Sheriff's Department saw a slight decrease.

The Sheriff's Department saw reductions in complaints from all but three location categories -- the county jail, the vehicle impound facility and "other." That last category is not defined in the report.

The modest increase of complaints at the county jail is notable because it was the first interruption in a rapidly downward trend that goes back to 2008, when 247 complaints were related to the county jail --  89 were filed in 2011 and 96 were filed in 2012.

Although Denver police received more complaints in 2012, about 4 percent fewer complaints from Internal Affairs resulted in sustained findings against officers.

The report also showed that the police department employed mediation at the highest rate in the nation. For the department's 1,383 officers, 42 complaints were mediated.

New York City, by contrast, has 34,510 officers but only completed 165 mediations.

-- Disciplinary Actions --

The report shows a reduced number of total disciplinary actions against members of both departments. For White's department, all but one variety of discipline showed a year-over-year decline.

The only increase was in the number of officers who retired prior to discipline. Four resigned in 2012, whereas only one took that route in 2011.

Eight deputies decided to resign prior to their discipline. Two of those were accused of being involved in an inappropriate relationship with inmates. One other deputy was fired for the same charge.

Between the two departments, only 4 people were fired during 2012.

A total of 22 officers and 35 deputies served suspensions during the year. That includes one unidentified officer who served 84 days of suspension during 2012 for two incidents. In one case he ridiculed and shoved a homeless man, then made a sign saying "Don't feed the Bums!" and stood with it next to the man for an hour. The same officer's second suspension related to his calling in sick on two days after a drinking binge.

-- Officer-Involved Shootings --

Twice as many officer-involved shootings occurred during 2012 as did during the previous year. The eight shootings involved a total of nine police officers.

Three of the people shot by the officers died and one other was injured.

Only one officer has been punished in relation to one of these shootings. Because he used a weapon not approved by the department, the decision to fire him was upheld.

The report states that investigative work is continuing on two of the shootings, both related to the case in which Larry Gomez is accused of shooting at Denver and Aurora officers during traffic stops.

The Office of the Independent Monitor requested additional investigation into officers' involvement in the chase that led to Gomez's arrest and crash in Aurora. In that, one officer fired several shots and Gomez was hit twice.
The report calls for more investigation to determine if any part of department policy was violated in this incident.

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Read the annual report: http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/374/documents/2012%20OIM%20Annual%20Report-Online%20Version.pdf