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Denver Police retirees back on the beat today, demanding a "fair" manager of safety

While mayor-elect Michael Hancock continues to collect resumes for the numerous appointments he must make, a group of retired police officers will be gathering today to ask Hancock to appoint a new safety manager -- the sixth person in that position in a year -- who will be more sympathetic to cops.

The manager of safety oversees the sheriff's department, fire department and police department; former police chief Jim Collier (from 1991-'92) will be reading a statement on behalf of 700 retired officers at the 10 a.m. gathering in the South High School parking lot, asking for Hancock to appoint someone who will be fair to the rank and file.

Al LaCabe, a former police officer and attorney, had served as manager of safety for seven years, and resigned last summer after he oversaw a major overhaul of the discipline process. He was replaced -- very briefly -- by Ron Perea, who simply suspended officers who were involved in the Michael DeHerrera beating. In the outrage that followed, Perea resigned and was replaced on an interim basis by Mary Malesta, who fired two officers.

And then Charles Garcia, the former public defender who was appointed manager of safety in March by Mayor Bill Vidal, wasted no time taking action on other outstanding cases, firing six officers for lying, among other offenses, including two officers in the reopened DeHerrera case.

Update: Here's the announcement of that event:

Retired Denver Police Officers and Citizens Call for Accountability from Manager of Safety and New Mayor

WHAT:

More than 700 retired Denver police officers, their spouses, and widows of fallen police officers, and citizens are in support of a public statement expressing dissatisfaction with how political decisions are made in the Denver mayor's office that affect the safety and judgment of Denver's Police Department operations.

Retired Denver Police Chief Jim Collier, who served from 1991-1992, will read a prepared statement on behalf of the group at a gathering Tuesday, July 5th.

Media are welcome and encouraged to attend

In short, the group is calling for the new mayor to consider the following guidelines:

1. If the Mayor decides to continue to keep the Manager of Safety position, then the manager must be held accountable to act in a fair and impartial manner, as well as demonstrate an understanding of police procedures and the risks police officers face every day as they fulfill their duties

2. The Manager of Safety must use reasonable, short, decision-making timelines to decide disciplinary action

3. The Mayor must encourage the Chief of Police to manage the department to the best of his or her abilities and experience and to maximize the administration of justice on the streets

4. Ensure that the Police Department is in the "results business" and not in the "appearance business"

5. The City of Denver needs a strong and responsible Chief of Police, who is also held accountable

6. Denver police officers should have their opinions respected without fear of reprisal or discipline

7. Put more police supervisors on the street during incidents. Chances are that recent incidents caught on camera probably would not have escalated if supervisors were on the scene

8. The Mayor should take a firm position and halt the practice of the city paying for "nuisance suits" against police officers which only adds another layer of doubt and implication on the police officers even though officers have been cleared of any procedural wrongs.

Chief Collier said the group is in agreement that, "We fully support the rank and file, the men and women on the street who protect our citizens, but when it is merited we reaffirm the need for fair discipline and administration by impartial sources. However, the Manager of Safety can no longer undermine the Police Department's authority and ability to fulfill its charter to serve and protect the citizens of Denver."

Collier said, "As citizens, and former police officers, we support law and order and we need assertive police officers who are not afraid to be curious, to look at what's going on around them, and to fulfill their duties without feeling like their every action could be grounds for discipline."

Collier added that, "When law and order move out, you're not going to like what moves in."

 

While Hancock weighs possible replacements for Garcia, he has no shortage of input. Last month, he received a Strategic Resource Alignment Project report on Denver Police Department staffing; excerpts from that are posted below. A short summary? Don't cut more cops. (Garcia served on the committee that wrote the report, which could explain why it stays away from the manager of safety office.)

Denver Police Department 2011 Strategic Resource Alignment Project June 9, 2011

Executive Summary Denver Police Department (DPD) officers engaged in traditional line of duty policing functions - patrol, investigations, and traffic enforcement in particular - provide a strong return on investment (ROI) in the form of reduced crime and reduced traffic accidents.Key findings from the project include:

⇒ Adding an additional patrol officer to an active line of duty patrol assignment yields a marginal ROI of 630%. ⇒ Adding 10% more detectives investigating cases yields an ROI of 190%. ⇒ Adding an additional officer enforcing traffic laws yields an ROI over 900% (statistically, every 19 citations is correlated with one less traffic accident). ⇒ By finding alternative ways to deliver non-traditional police functions, DPD can reduce its annual operating budget by up to $8 million annually without directly impacting public safety (note: there may be a corresponding diminishment of certain services, such as a reduction in service desk hours of operation). ⇒ By increasing management span of control in line of duty assignments, DPD could save an additional $3 million in annual operating budget, but less supervision per employee may have unpredictable and negative consequences. ⇒ Personnel budget reductions in excess of $11 million will, most likely, directly impact line of duty activity and reduce public safety. ⇒ Without changing headcount and by realigning resources from non-traditional to traditional police functions, DPD can increase its effective line of duty strength by up to 92 officers (up to 40 from headquarter and district station clerk assignments and up to 52 from reassignment from other non-line of duty assignments). ⇒ By optimizing shift schedules and assignments, DPD resources can better overlap with calls for service workload over the course of a day, increasing the effective line of duty strength by up to 21 officers without a corresponding headcount increase and better meeting dispatch goals.

The Strategic Resource Alignment (SRA) project supports DPD's efforts to reorganize and improve the alignment of available resources to maximize public safety. It also informs citywide management resource allocation decisions relative to other city services.

Background

The project began in March and ended in early May of 2011. The SRA project team consisted of a mix of personnel with subject matter and analytical expertise. The project team included:

Manager of Safety Charles Garcia Deputy Manager Ashley Kilroy Deputy Manager Mel Thompson Police Chief Gerald Whitman Deputy Chief Michael Battista (Operations) Deputy Chief John Lamb (Administration) Division Chief David Fisher (Investigations) Division Chief Tracie Keesee (Research Training & Technology) Division Chief Mary Beth Klee (Special Operations) Division Chief David Quinones (Patrol) Manager of Budget Operations Laura Wachter

Special Assistant to the Mayor David Edinger managed the project. Juno Analytics, an independent contractor led by Janelle Lewis, provided analytical and methodological guidance and support. DPD's Data Analysis Unit and Denver 911 provided police and communication center data to support the project.

The SRA project established several relationships between police activity and public safety outcomes in order to better evaluate the organization's size and structure. Several scenarios were generated, including scenarios showing the potential societal benefits from increasing police resources.

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.

And no shortage of people with ideas of what to do with those opportunities.

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