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Denver mayor appoints Elias Diggins, longtime department veteran, as new sheriff

Posted at 11:15 AM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 14:34:25-04

DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday appointed Elias Diggins, a longtime member of the Denver Sheriff Department, as the new sheriff.

Diggins, a 25-year veteran of the department and most recently the Chief of Operations with the department, replaces Sheriff Patrick Firman, who resigned last fall.

Firman resigned amid pressure from several city councilmembers following a series of scandals involving the department and the jail. Following Firman's resignation, Fran Gomez, the department's director of professional standards, stepped into the role of interim sheriff.

Hancock on Monday said he "wanted someone who knows what the risks and challenges of the job are in Denver" as the next sheriff.

"I had the pleasure of seeing Elias in action," Hancock said. "I've watched him firsthand engage and work side by side with residents and deputies on how to make this department better."

Diggins in 1996 was found guilty of filing a false report, a misdemeanor, after he lied to a judge about having car insurance, according to the Denver Post.

Both Hancock and Diggins hinted at Diggins' past during a news conference Monday.

"I have had some challenges," Diggins said. "But I am ready to move forward and lead this department to where we need to go."

Said Hancock, about Diggins' past, "He said to me, he is not the man he was then. Through those challenges, he is much better, stronger, better prepared to lead the department."

Diggins, a Denver native, takes the helm of a department that has faced an array of scrutiny in recent years.

A lawsuit filed last year by female Denver Sheriff Department deputies claimed that they were subjected to crass remarks and behavior by male inmate.

A separate lawsuit filed by a woman forced to give birth alone in a Denver jail cell and a host of other incidents and issues within the department – which operates Denver’s jails – over the past four years put Firman in jeopardy, sources told Denver7.

In early 2018, Denver7 reported that deputies had racked up more than $11 million in overtime costs over 10 months in 2017 – another issue that plagued the department prior to Firman’s hiring.

In January 2018, the Denver auditor said the department had made progress in reforming itself but said there was still more work to be done because there had been no decrease in the number of use-of-force incidents between 2014 and 2016.

In March 2018, three DSD deputies were reassigned after they released an undocumented man who was suspected of killing another man in a hit-and-run crash before telling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.And this past March, the city auditor again reported that the department had many issues regarding the safety of inmates and deputies.