City of DenverHot SheetPublic Safety

Denver watchdog agency oversight nixed in law enforcement leadership probes

Author: Adam McCoy - May 14, 2018 - Updated: May 14, 2018

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, near left, with public safety chief Troy Riggs, at podium, and then-outgoing head of public safety Stephanie O’Malley. (cpr.org)

Denver’s law enforcement watchdog must steer clear of investigations into the city’s top cops, per new direction from Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration.

The Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM), primarily made up of lawyers and currently run by Nicholas Mitchell, serves as the city’s civilian oversight agency for the Denver Police and Sheriff’s Departments by participating in police investigations of misconduct and making recommendations on department policies including on discipline and broader issues like use of force.

But according to a FOX31 report, that oversight does not extend to law enforcement leaders. Public Safety Director Troy Riggs has told the OIM it is no longer allowed to supervise probes into law enforcement leadership. Riggs says he is following the city charter based upon the legal recommendation of the city’s legal counsel.

Conversely, Mitchell told the Denver TV station it is important the agency be allowed to provide oversight of investigations of law enforcement leaders, “as it has done in the past.”

The OIM is being denied access to current investigations including an undisclosed probe into Denver Police Chief Robert White, who has announced he will retire as soon as the city can find his replacement, and a probe into Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman sparked by a complaint over a city contract.

The independent monitor has had issues gaining access in the past to internal police investigations. In 2013, the monitor was unable to obtain a policy memo on problems with the inmate grievance process, and more recently, the office was not included in the discipline process for an open records case against White.

Some City Council members, including Wayne New and Paul Kashmann, want to the city to grant Mitchell access to the investigations, according to Denverite.

In 2016, Denver citizens voted overwhelming, roughly 71 percent, in support of adding the OIM to the city charter. It prevented the city from altering or eliminating the office.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.