Troy Riggs, the new head of Denver's Department of Public Safety, convened with journalists on Thursday, March 8, in what he's calling "a change in the way we'll do operation." After replacing outgoing DPS Executive Director Stephanie O'Malley in early February, Riggs promised reporters that he will usher the public safety branch of Denver's government — which oversees the city's police, sheriff and fire departments — into a new era of transparency. He wants to host informal but on-the-record press conferences every thirty days.
To underscore his point, Riggs nudged Sheriff Patrick Firman into the spotlight to talk about ongoing efforts to reform a Denver Sheriff's Department that's been plagued with such problems as high turnover, rampant overtime spending and inmate deaths and assaults in the Downtown Detention Center and Denver County jail. The sheriff says that the department is 85 percent done with reform efforts, which include implementing a revised use-of-force policy and improving data collection and storage.
The most interesting revelation from Firman's discussion of reforms was new data compiled by the department that breaks down the numbers and types of assaults occurring in Denver jails. Firman said that the department had not been keeping data that differentiated types of assaults, and a team known as the Data Science Unit had to read hundreds of incident reports to compile the numbers.
The just-released results reveal that physical assaults among inmates are more common than an inmate assaulting a staff member, but that inmates will more often verbally threaten staff than other inmates. In 2017, there were a total of 470 physical assaults between inmates and 98 physical assaults occurring between an inmate and a staff member. The data tables also show the number of injuries resulting from assaults, as well as a tally of times that bodily fluids — blood, feces, urine, etc. — were used during assaults.
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Here is the full table for 2017:
Firman also supplied data for January 2018. He said that assaults are not necessarily uniform between months, so it is too early to say if 2018 will outpace 2017. Here is the table showing assaults in January 2018: