Denver police chief may have fewer cops to police, thanks to Career Service Authority

Mayor-elect Michael Hancock, back from a brief vacation yesterday, introduced his new chief of staff, Janice Sinden, and said he's still looking for a new police chief.

No matter his choice, Denver's next top cop is unlikely to get the same warm welcome that greeted consensus-builder Sinden -- and will inherit an arsenal of tricky challenges.

Two hours before Hancock introduced Sinden, former police chief Jim Collier stood before a group of Denver Police Department retirees and urged the next mayor to appoint a manager of safety -- a position that oversees the police, fire and sheriff's departments -- who will not be as tough disciplining cops as current Safety Manager Charles Garcia, who's fired seven officers since he was appointed in March.

Both the new safety manager and the new chief will have many challenges beyond discipline, including dealing with a tight budget. And one of the solutions laid out in a June report compiled by a number of officers as well as Garcia may be no solution at all.

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In order to get more police officers on the streets, the 2011 Strategic Resource Alignment Project report suggests putting civilians in a number of desk jobs -- jobs that would be overseen by the Career Service Authority, the agency that handles human resources for 8,500 city employees. In fact, a former board member of the CSA, Ashley Kilroy, is now the deputy manager of safety who helped work on the report.

But as Joel Warner reports in this week's Westword cover story, the CSA could use some policing of its own. Watch for that piece -- including the report on another Kilroy investigation -- to be posted here later today. In the meantime, here's the conclusion of the Strategic Resource Alignment Project::

Conclusion

Denver police officers earn well-deserved premium compensation based on their law enforcement expertise and level of service to the community. While police officers assigned to non-traditional (i.e. support) functions do not provide sub par performance, there are significant cost and other considerations. In economic terms, there is a comparative advantage to Career Service Authority (CSA) employees filling support roles within DPD. First, police officers are the only personnel who can provide traditional law enforcement work, so when they are assigned elsewhere there is no substitute. Second, it is likely that appropriate CSA employees could attain similar quality and service at, for example, scheduling officers for court dates, upgrading software, or coordinating a youth baseball league. Any loss of service quality in these non-traditional roles would likely be outweighed by the strong comparative ROI from assigning these FTEs to traditional policing functions.

Once DPD resources are realigned, increasing headcount will improve public safety and generate a positive return. While fiscal constraints may limit these expenditures in the short-term, a longer-term "neighborhood-centric" approach would warrant such an investment as increased property values increase the tax base. Such expansion should be weighed against other investments (for example, free recreation centers or improved street maintenance), with the potential to provide an economic return.

The analysis in this report relies upon the input assumptions, many of which are derived from this project's statistical analysis and from a variety of external research projects. The conclusions are directional, not absolute, in nature. For example, unless the assumptions are very far off target, more patrol officers will yield a strong ROI. Whether that number of patrol officers is 100 or 300 is uncertain, but downsizing this function is clearly the wrong direction.

Finally, there are numerous other possibilities currently under evaluation or awaiting further exploration. One such possibility is using dictation outsourcing to free detectives from duplicate data entry (they write case notes at the crime scene then type the information into the records management system), with the potential to effectively increase investigative FTEs. Another example is streamlining the discipline process so that internal investigations are conducted in parallel with criminal investigations, and officers placed on paid administrative leave are back on duty more quickly. There is no shortage of opportunities.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "National Western complex goes to pot: Welcome to the Mile (really) High City."


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