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While Denver has recently made some big settlements, including the $795,000 Landau payout, in police misconduct cases, the city was settling such cases long before the Office of the Independent Monitor was established. (Denver paid $1.3 million to the family of Paul Childs, for example.) "It's really impossible to say whether the Independent Monitor program has had an effect on litigation payouts due to the multitude of factors that can impact such payouts, including, but not limited to, crime rates, department culture, public perceptions, city attorney trial strategies, existence of video evidence, etc.," Rosenthal notes. "When the Office of the Independent Monitor was created, the city accepted the concept that even if a thorough investigation and the timely imposition of discipline might cause a higher settlement in a single case, it would be part of an overall risk-management strategy that would reduce liability in the long run."

But that strategy has also rankled some citizens. Echoing complaints once leveled against Rosenthal in Portland, critics say the Citizen Oversight Board, the group in charge of monitoring the monitor, does little more than rubber-stamp Rosenthal's decisions. "The Independent Monitor is the tail wagging the dog when it comes to the Citizen Oversight Board," says Joe Sandoval, a longtime member of the PSRC and the COB's first chair (his mayoral appointment was not renewed in 2006). "Rosenthal is the one who provides information on various cases to the oversight board. The oversight board has the authority to request that he investigate cases in greater depth, if they so desire. When it started in 2005 and 2006, the board never asked the monitor to look at any cases a little more closely. I don't think anything has changed." It doesn't help, Sandoval adds, that because of the way the Independent Monitor ordinance was written, all funding for the COB goes through the Independent Monitor's office.

Current COB chair Cathy Reynolds, a former Denver city councilwoman, disagrees with her predecessor; she says the board is constantly giving Rosenthal feedback. "It's fair to say that during investigations, we have asked Richard to make sure he's covering certain bases or looking at certain angles, and he responds beautifully," she says, then adds, "The office is so thorough we don't do it very often."

Rosenthal points out that it's not the COB's responsibility to pore over details of internal investigations; that's his job. "The well-thought-out ordinance behind this recognizes that the best place for volunteer citizens is looking at the big picture, and the best place for full-time professionals is evaluating the specifics of the cases," he notes, adding, "If the board felt I was trying to control them through their purse strings, do you think they wouldn't be publicly reporting on that?"

Still, he's not surprised by such attacks: Criticism comes with the job. "One of the things I have learned in this position is I can get attacked from both sides over the same issue," Rosenthal notes. "With any decision I make, there will be somebody I make unhappy." That's why he abides by the quote displayed in his office, alongside commendations from the President of the United States and a framed caricature of himself by Westword cartoonist Kenny Be: "You are going to be criticized no matter what you do, so you may as well be criticized for doing the right thing."

******

For anyone angling to oust Rosenthal, the Independent Monitor has a bureaucratic ace up his sleeve: As the ordinance is written, to terminate an Independent Monitor, the mayor must first receive council approval to do so and then launch a nationwide search to find a replacement.

"That puts me in a position where I am not beholden to politics," says Rosenthal. And so he's already working on a laundry list of things he wants to accomplish for Denver over the next few years.

There are plans to launch disciplinary reforms within the Denver Fire Department, for example, and Rosenthal still sees a need to address the DPD's reputation for being ill-mannered, to deal with the volatility that marks too many police encounters with citizens. "One of my goals for the next administration is to look at what we can do to deal with complaints about force and courtesy," Rosenthal says. That's an issue that will likely become more pressing as more camera lenses — on everything from HALO systems to cell phones — capture the cops at work, in very different movies from the ones Rosenthal deconstructs with his CU-Denver students.

"It is definitely a stressful job, and a difficult one," Rosenthal concludes, "but I want to stay as long as I am making a difference."

Doing anything else would be tantamount to failure. And this is a man who hates to lose.

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8 comments
KST
KST

Rosenthal says Denver has a good police department but all he talks about in interviews isa few cases that have been sensationalized. Why doesn't he discuss the statistics from his Annual Report 2010? In the report he says, "It is important to note that only a small proportion of citizen-police contacts in 2010 resulted in a citizen complaint. For example, Denver Police officers responded to 465,511 calls for service in 2010. In the same time period, the DPD received 601 citizen complaints against its officers, which amounts to a conservative estimate of roughly one complaint for ever 775 calls for service (or .013%)"

He goes on to say, "Only a relatively small proportion of DPD officers had one complaint sustained in 2010 (5.3%) and no officers had more than two complaints sustained in one year."

This information is on the OIM website but it is not well publisized. If Rosenthal really wantstransparancy and believes DPD is a good department why doesn't he use these statitistics in his interview and tell people to read the entrie report on the OIM website?

KST

Ray Denonville
Ray Denonville

The Denver Police Union P.P.A. wants Rosenthal fired. A Denver Copwatch member I spoke with wants Rosenthal fired; something about L.A.P.D. If the P.P.A. and Denver Copwatch both want Rosenthal fired he must be doing something right.

Garygoode
Garygoode

As an employee of several large industries, all of which were unionized, an oversite department is always needed. To those that are caught, they hate the system, those who remain unscathed, no issues.

Videos are everywhere in our society now; most of the complaints about the Denver Police beating the citizens have been followed with some "interesting" video evidence. Generally, when there is no video, the case goes away without a conviction or reprimand.

Times have changed, now the police unions are fighting the system by confronting only the enforcers, not the videos, not the evidence, nor the complaints.

Remember the banking meltdown of 2008? The banking and financial enforcement agency went for years trying to regulate themselves only to become the advocates of a bad system.

Let the unions run the show and we all will pay.

Grab your camera and hit the streets.

Darthurwhittle
Darthurwhittle

Rosenthal keeping an eye on Denver cops----but not too close------------------

AnyBodyButObama 2012
AnyBodyButObama 2012

Denver "Doesn't have a bad Police Department..."? This is who saying this? I'm sure the rash of bad cops over the last few years is just an "Accident"! And those are only the ones that got caught, what is the percentage that hasn't?

Kenneth Westervelt
Kenneth Westervelt

West Denver Copwatch has no love for the man. I don't really have a dog in the fight, as I've never had problems like this when I ran into police in the past.

Fds3
Fds3

It is real easy to blame the police and the sherriff's for all the problems but Mr Rosenthal you couldn't do there job and you have no clue of the type of people they deal with. I think that you should think about this thought.

Boyhood
Boyhood

Rosenthal needs to go trust me....

 
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