The most-asked question that new Denver mayor Bill Vidal has heard since it became clear he was going to be the 44th leader of the city has been this: What is he going to do about the cop problem?
Allegations of police brutality among the ranks of the Denver Police Department have resounded for months -- and at his swearing-in ceremony today, Vidal asked cops to behave even when no one's watching.
Following this morning's oath-taking at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, Vidal touched on the recent allegations and subsequent shake-ups in management for the Department of Safety.
"Unfortunately, recent events have clouded this reputation," Vidal said during his opening address. "It will take every one of us to build and strengthen [that reputation]."
He then addressed all law enforcement in the city, openly asking them to act "in a manner that you would be proud of no matter who's watching."
Only a friend and a video camera recorded the April 2009 beating of Michael DeHerrera. It's clear from the level of violence in the video that the police were unaware they were being recorded, or didn't think anyone would see it.
Vidal ended by saying, "We rightfully expect the acts of our uniformed officers to make us feel safe, not afraid."
Vidal, who succeeds new Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, gave his address in the atrium of the building, with his "fellow employees" watching from seats on the floor and from the third- and fourth-floor balconies.
He avoided any John Boehner moments, as he put it, by taking sips through a straw from a plastic cup of water during otherwise emotional stories about his upbringing and early years in an orphanage in Pueblo. In the audience of about 500 people were his two older brothers, his mother, his wife, three of his five children and city employees.
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"City employees really turned out; I know that's the way Bill wanted it," said Sue Cobb, deputy communications director for Hickenlooper and now Vidal, noting that there was a reception afterward just for city employees, in which "most of them wanted to pay their regards to Bill."
While he'll only be in office until July 18 -- a month he made note of three times during his address -- Vidal, the city's former Public Works manager, said he plans to spur the city's economic comeback by fast-tracking job-creating municipal projects involving roads, the sewer system, the Westside Library, and continued expansion of Denver International Airport.
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