On November 1, Alex Martinez traded his spot in the Colorado State Supreme Court to become Denver's sixth manager of safety in slightly more than a year. He has spoken publicly about his priorities for the position, which center on renewing public trust in the Denver Police Department and his office. In this week's feature, "Back on the Beat," we talked to Martinez about those plans and the recent structural changes in both departments. He elaborates on these subjects below.
In the ring of public perception, Mayor Michael Hancock says the transparency and accessibility of both Denver Police Chief Robert White and Martinez are already an improvement over their predecessors'.
"There's a face on the police department, and there's a face on the manager of safety's office," he told Westword. "That didn't exist before." It doesn't hurt that both men are seen in more places than the mayor, he jokes.
But Martinez hopes to continue addressing how they are seen -- specifically, as two separate bodies with vastly different backgrounds that serve similar goals for the city. At the top of his public-misconceptions list, Martinez cites a general failure to perceive that the manager of safety's office is not the police department.
He doesn't hold any inherent interest in police work, he says, and he is a longtime public servant with 28 years of court experience, not a cop.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"I wish the public got that a little more," Martinez says. "They are essentially getting a trial court view and an appellate court overview, which is as good as it gets, you know? (But) people see me as part of the police department."
The arena of police oversight is full of people who believe they know exactly what should be done based on past precedent, Martinez says, but he and White have little interest in making decisions that way.
"To be honest with you, it's a very volatile area, and the likelihood is that neither one of us will have this chance for a very long period of time -- because we will upset people," Martinez says. "There comes a point where enough people are upset that you lose your effectiveness. The way I see it is: We have a window of opportunity to accomplish things, and what remains to be seen is how much we can get accomplished during our opportunity."
More from our News archive: "Justice Alex Martinez hopes to be bring calm to troubled Manager of Safety job."