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Independent investigation of Denver police leadership is complete but findings are not yet public

Posted at 6:31 PM, Dec 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-02 00:50:30-05

An independent firm has completed its months-long investigation of the actions of the Denver Police Department’s leadership, launched after a series of Denver7 investigations into what the former district attorney said was a wrongful arrest of an innocent woman.

A spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Safety confirmed Friday the third-party investigation is now complete and the findings are now being reviewed by the sheriff's Conduct Review Office.

The sheriff's office is reviewing the findings to determine whether Deputy Chief Matt Murray violated any department policies, and there will be a separate process to review the actions of Chief Robert White. 

"The [Conduct Review Office] would normally not be involved in the review of conduct by a political appointee like Chief White. However, in this case, the CRO will review the investigation for matters that apply to his conduct and organize it in a manner that can be presented for mayoral review with input from the Executive Director of Safety," the Department of Public Safety said in a statement Friday.

The third-party firm's findings have not been publicly released.

The city’s Executive Director of Safety Stephanie O’Malley announced the independent investigation in March.

The controversy began in January when Denver7 Investigates published a letter sent to Chief White last year by then-District Attorney Mitch Morrissey. In the letter, Morrissey criticized Deputy Chief Murray for the arrest of Angiella Arnot. 

Arnot and former Denver police officer Davin Munk were taken into custody and accused of sexual assault, but the district attorney declined to charge them several days later after evidence emerged that convinced Morrissey the allegations were false.

In his letter, the district attorney claimed DPD rushed to arrest Arnot before examining all of the evidence. Murray said he was out of town when Arnot was arrested but also said he believed police did nothing wrong when they took her into custody because they had probable cause to arrest her. 

The police union said it heard rumors about Morrissey’s letter and submitted two separate public records requests to DPD for the correspondence, but the department responded twice without releasing the letter from the DA. DPD only released the letter to the union after receiving questions about the records from Denver7 Investigates.

Murray said he and the department did not intentionally withhold the letter and simply did not initially realize the chief’s secretary had a copy.

DPD's records coordinator saw it differently, telling investigators later, “This is clearly deception.”

The term-limited Morrissey left office in January. In May, District Attorney Beth McCann declined to press criminal charges against White and Murray after the union filed a complaint alleging they violated the Colorado Open Records Act by not initially releasing Morrissey's letter or White's response to it. 

McCann said the chief and deputy chief handled the records requests carelessly but there was not sufficient evidence they knowingly violated the records law.