At today's 10:30 a.m. meeting of Denver's Citizen Oversight Board, a number of community activists plan to advocate for a voice in the search for a new Manager of Safety -- among them the Colorado Progressive Coalition's Alex Landau, who was nearly beaten to death by police officers in 2009.
Below, Landau talks about the firing of Ricky Nixon, one of the cops in that case, as well as Nixon's civil rights lawsuit against the city and qualities he'd like to see in the next Manager of Safety.
As we've reported, Nixon wasn't fired for the incident involving Landau. Indeed, no officers have been charged with a crime in that case, although the Denver City Council paid $795,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Landau. Rather, Nixon and Officer Kevin Devine, who wasn't involved in the Landau matter, were terminated for their actions in another 2009 controversy, involving four women who were roughed up at the Denver Diner.
City Council opened up its coffers for the Denver Diner victims, too: That settlement amount was approximately $360,000.
In April, Landau was highly critical of the city, and outgoing Manager of Safety Alex Martinez, for not criminally charging Nixon and the other cops involved in the attack on him. But even though Nixon's dismissal wasn't technically related to his case, he says, "it's a good thing when a violent officer is removed from the streets for any reason."
At the same time, however, he's concerned about reports that Nixon and Devine plan to appeal their firing. "Even after a lengthy investigation, I'm afraid we're still seeing this continuous appeal process," which caused the investigation into his beating and the Denver Diner case to stretch out over four years or so.
Landau also finds it hard to process Nixon's lawsuit against the City and County of Denver; the officer contends that his civil rights were violated by being forced to work on the Denver Police Department's radar unit, and give up his uniform and gun, even after being cleared of wrongdoing.
"I went through a whole lot of emotions when I first heard, especially after my near-death interaction at the hands of Officer Ricky Nixon," he says. "To see the way the high-profile Denver Diner case unfolded was incredible to say the least. But if we have to have our day in court, we will have our day in court -- and I'm sure there will be a whole list of victims and victims' families who would have things to say in regard to Ricky Nixon's policing."
Likewise, he's got plenty of opinions about Manager of Safety Martinez, who's agreed to become general counsel for Denver Public Schools. And those views are mixed.
Alex Landau face to face with Alex Martinez at a rally this past March, with Denver Police Chief Robert White looking on.
Photo by Danielle Lirette
While Landau was frustrated about Martinez's lack of support for criminal charges in his beating, he backs the decision to terminate Nixon and Devine for their Denver Diner actions. But at present, he's less focused on Martinez's tenure than he is on the search for the next manager -- and he hopes community groups will have a say, as they did prior to the hiring of a past manager of safety, Ron Perea.
"Collaborative efforts have taken place in the community, with different organizations getting together to make sure there's a transparent, community-oriented process," Landau says. "It may not necessarily replicate ones we've seen in the past, but they can provide a framework for community involvement that everyone can be satisfied with. So today's meeting is more about the process of moving this forward, and we want to be involved in that process.
"We've already heard that the mayor" -- Denver Mayor Michael Hancock -- "plans on including the community in the upcoming process, and we're in support of that," he continues. "And I imagine we'll be having many meetings as things unfold in the near future."
What qualities would he like to see in the next Denver Manager of Safety?
"I think it's important to have a Manager of Safety who can be flexible with the community -- who can work with community members and address concerns in a transparent manner," he responds. "And it's also important to have a manager who can understand what it's like to live as a youth of color in Denver -- someone who can put themselves in the shoes of an individual like that, really listen when they're giving their narrative, and be empathetic. And it'd be excellent to see someone with a background in community leadership who can bring an end to lengthy investigations -- to bring investigations to a timely conclusion."
Would he object to a candidate with close ties to police?
"I don't want to say that," he replies, "because if an individual has a law enforcement background, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be biased in the way they do their job. Having someone with a law enforcement background doesn't have to be detrimental. But in a perfect world, I'd like to see somebody with a community organizing background."
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The Citizen Oversight Board meeting gets underway at 10:30 a.m. today in the OIM conference room on the twelfth floor of the Webb Municipal Building, 201 West Colfax Avenue. It's open to the public.
More from our News archive circa March: "Photos: Alex Landau faces Alex Martinez at Michael DeHerrera police brutality rally."