Law Enforcement

Hancock Taps Murphy Robinson as Permanent Head of Public Safety

Mayor Hancock has appointed Murphy Robinson as the executive director of the Department of Public Safety.
Mayor Hancock has appointed Murphy Robinson as the executive director of the Department of Public Safety. Courtesy of the City and County of Denver
Mayor Michael Hancock has appointed Murphy Robinson as the executive director of the Department of Public Safety, an agency that oversees the city's fire, sheriff and police departments.

Robinson, who has been with the Hancock administration for close to three years, had been serving as interim executive director since the last director, Troy Riggs, resigned at the end of January to take a job in the private sector.

“Murphy has shown time and time again the level of innovative thinking, managerial performance and focus on equity that the people of Denver expect from their city government, and I know he will continue to lead the way as the permanent Executive Director of Public Safety,” Hancock said in announcing the appointment. “As a former law enforcement officer himself, he knows firsthand what it takes to keep our police, fire and sheriff departments performing at their very best, and I have every confidence that he will continue to be a phenomenal leader for this critical department.”

Robinson joined the city in August 2017, when he became the executive director of the Denver General Services Department. After serving in that role for two years, he became the city's chief operating officer, a position he held until he was appointed to head Public Safety...first temporarily, now permanently. The department has an annual budget of $588 million.

While Hancock has now filled the top slot in Public Safety, the department is still looking for permanent heads of both the sheriff and fire departments.

Patrick Firman, who was appointed sheriff in 2015, resigned last fall. He was replaced on an interim basis by Fran Gomez, a career law enforcement officer; she had applied to become permanent sheriff, but later withdrew her application. And after interviewing finalists for the position last week, the city's sheriff selection committee decided to reopen the application process.

The city has been without a permanent fire chief since Eric Tade stepped down from the position in February, following a firefighters' union party that reportedly featured sexual innuendo.

In Denver's strong-mayor system, the mayor holds the sole decision-making authority when it comes to appointing department heads.

Seeking to decentralize some of that power from the mayor's office, however, Denver City Council members Amanda Sawyer and Candi CdeBaca are pushing for a charter change that would create a council-approval process for major mayoral appointees, such as the executive director of the Department of Public Safety.

Next month, a council committee will debate the merits of that proposal. If it makes it out of committee and then is approved by the full Denver City Council, the proposed charter change could be on the November 2020 ballot.
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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.