A Woman Will Head the Denver Sheriff's Department for the First Time

Fran Gomez has been named interim sheriff after Patrick Firman announced his resignation on September 11.
Fran Gomez has been named interim sheriff after Patrick Firman announced his resignation on September 11. Department of Public Safety
The Hancock administration has selected Frances Gomez as the interim Denver sheriff. Gomez, the department's current director of professional standards, will replace Patrick Firman, who announced his resignation on September 11 after serving as sheriff since 2015. Firman will continue in his role until Gomez is sworn in on October 14.

Troy Riggs, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Safety, said during a press conference today, September 12, that Firman "resigned on his own" and had recently discussed leaving. He stopped short of giving exact reasons for Firman's departure.

Firman was not at the press conference and was spending today and possibly tomorrow at home with his family. Riggs said that Firman will help integrate Gomez into the job over the coming weeks.

Firman's tenure has been rocked by numerous scandals, beginning with the in-custody death of Michael Lee Marshall, a mentally ill homeless man, who died after deputies tried to restrain him. In March 2018, the Office of the Independent Monitor published a scathing report about how the sheriff's department handled the situation.

In August, a former inmate named Diana Sanchez filed a lawsuit after having given birth unassisted in one of the city's jails in 2018. And earlier this week, Denver City Council approved a $1.55 million settlement for fifteen female sheriff's deputies who alleged that they had been sexually harassed on the job.

Although she's only serving in an interim capacity, Gomez will be the first female sheriff in Denver history.

Gomez got her start at the Denver Sheriff Department in 1987, joined the Aurora Police Department in 1990, and eventually became the first female commander in Aurora, including a stint as SWAT commander. In 2013, she joined the Commerce City Police Department as deputy chief of operations before retiring in 2016. She didn't stay away from law enforcement for long, however, and has been with the Denver Sheriff Department as director of professional standards since August 2018.

In the coming months, Riggs will oversee a search for a new sheriff and will present his findings to Mayor Michael Hancock in January. However, that search may become moot before it's finished. Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who has shown her willingness to challenge Hancock, is considering making the sheriff an elected position or one determined by a committee comprising more than just the mayor; either initiative would require a charter change determined by a ballot initiative.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.