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How to register a complaint - or compliment - about the city's law enforcement

Have a complaint regarding a member of the Denver Police Department or the Denver Sheriff's Department? Timing is of the essence: The Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) encourages you to file any allegation of minor misconduct, such as discourtesy, within sixty days of the incident, and file any more serious complaints within six months. The easiest way to file is through the OIM's website; just go to www.denvergov.org/OIM and click on "Complaint Process."

If that doesn't work for you, you can grab a copy of the form at the Independent Monitor's office on the twelfth floor of the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, 201 West Colfax Avenue, or at any police, sheriff's or Denver City Council office. Or you can call the Independent Monitor's office at 720-913-3306 and have a copy sent to you. You can then fax the completed form to the OIM at 720-913-3305, drop it off at the OIM's office, or file it with the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau, 1331 Cherokee Street, or the sheriff's department's Internal Affairs Bureau, 5440 Roslyn Street, Suite 320.

What happens next? Complaints sent to the OIM are turned over to the appropriate Internal Affairs bureau, and those bureaus notify the OIM of any new complaints they've received. After looking into the incident and consulting with the Independent Monitor, investigators will take one of five courses of action: file an informal service complaint with the bureau or district where the officer or officers are assigned; recommend that the people involved attend community-police mediation; refer the complaint to an outside agency; dismiss the complaint if internal affairs and the OIM agree it is unfounded, negligible or untimely; or begin a formal Internal Affairs investigation into the incident.

Formal investigations can be time-intensive, with an investigator looking at all the evidence and the OIM reviewing the process. Once the investigation is complete, the commander of the officers involved in the incident makes a finding on the complaint, which is then reviewed by the chain of command, including the chief of police or undersheriff. Finally, the Manager of Safety (who also serves as Denver's sheriff) determines whether or not the officer or officers violated any policies and what discipline, if any, is necessary. Then the complainant receives a letter noting the decision and explaining the reasoning.

If the complainant doesn't like the decision, he or she can ask the OIM to re-review the case. Complaints about the discipline process can also be sent to the mayor's office or the Citizen Oversight Board, which evaluates the OIM's performance. At the same time, if the officers involved are found guilty of misconduct, they may appeal the decision to the Denver Civil Service Commission.

And if the people involved still aren't satisfied? There's always the state and federal courts.

Last year, the Denver Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau handled 713 citizen and internal complaints; on average, they were closed within 62 days of being filed. Although formal complaints take up the most time, the departments attempt to resolve all cases within 150 days at most; many of the changes to the process over the past few years have been designed to cut down on the time required to handle a complaint.

By the way, compliments about a member of the police or sheriff's departments may be submitted through the same process.


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