In the wake of numerous high-profile excessive-force allegations against the Denver Sheriff's Department, Denver officials have made a showy effort to address the problem in ways meant to reassure the public. But has the city gone too far? That's among the claims made by the Colorado's Fraternal Order of Police, which is planning a rally on Monday at the Denver Detention Center, 520 West Colfax Avenue, as a reaction against what's characterized as "a knee jerk reaction by the Mayor's office and the Director of Public Safety...in response to highly controversial and biased media reports." Additional photos, documents and details below.
The rally's timing doesn't appear to be coincidental. As we've reported, the Denver Sheriff Department has been cast in a negative light by reporting about lawsuits, punchouts and attacks, with many incidents caught on embarrassing video. And a civil suit over the jail death of Marvin Booker is ongoing at this writing. We've included the CFOP announcement below in its entirety. But a key excerpt reads:
The Denver Deputies through the FOP have stood silent waiting for City Administration to act in a proper and responsible manner. Unfortunately that has been far from the case, and our patience has run out. The response and handling of public relations and internal policy by department management and the City Administration has been dismal at best, and in our opinion politically motivated.. As such we will remain silent no longer.
Higher-ups at the Denver Sheriff's Department appear to be reacting to deputy complaints that the city is vilifying law enforcers for reasons of political expediency. Acting sheriff Elias Wiggins, who took over the top spot at DSD after the resignation of Gary Wilson, his predecessor, amid public pressure, has released a letter emphasizing that deputies can use force when necessary. That document is here as well, but one segment reads:
Not only are you justified in using force by Departmental Policies and Procedures, you have the authority to do so as a peace officer by Colorado state statute. You are supported in fulfilling your duty and we will stand with you when using force when it is necessary, reasonable, just and appropriate.
Continue to see the complete CFOP essay about the rally, followed by the event announcement from the DSD's Fraternal Order of Police lodge and the Wiggins letter.
Colorado State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police release:
DENVER SHERIFFS' FOP CALLS RALLY FOR SUPPORT & RESPECT
On Monday, October 6th, at 1:00 PM there will be a protest rally held in front of the Denver Detention Center (DDC) located at 520 W Colfax Avenue in Denver.
The main purpose of this rally is to bring attention to a serious matter of public concern, and to provide a real and fair perspective of how Denver Deputies have been affected by the recent actions of the administration in regards to changes in policy and messaging to deputies in light of some recent high profile incidents. We urge all Denver Sheriff's Deputies who are off-duty along with family and friends to attend and participate.
The Denver Deputies through the FOP have stood silent waiting for City Administration to act in a proper and responsible manner. Unfortunately that has been far from the case, and our patience has run out. The response and handling of public relations and internal policy by department management and the City Administration has been dismal at best, and in our opinion politically motivated. As such we will remain silent no longer.
In essence there has been a knee jerk reaction by the Mayor's office and the Director of Public Safety to high profile isolated incidents. This "knee jerk" reaction is in response to highly controversial and biased media reports. The Administration's public response on these incidents has been mishandled, reactive, and in our opinion politically motivated. That response has led to public confusion and a feeding frenzy by a biased media that adds to that confusion. Instead of dealing with these situations as the isolated incidents that they are and publicly addressing them as such, they have waved a heavy hammer over the heads of all employees, and allowed the men and women of our profession to be painted as being unprofessional and commonly engaged in inappropriate use of force. This is far from the truth, and we will stand for it no longer.
The bottom line is Deputies don't feel that there is support for them from the City Administration or management in the Sheriff's Office. As such deputies feel the facility safety and security have been compromised and seriously affected. The City Administration's failures to address this properly, combined with its 3.25 million dollar settlement on one case has created a climate where many inmates are looking to provoke deputies into using force in an attempt to gain an opportunity sue for big monetary damages. Because of this there has been an increase in serious assaults against officers in recent weeks. Deputies feel that inmates are acting more aggressive and trying to provoke use of force incidents.
Deputies feel that the message from City Administration is clear that if you use force you will be disciplined and as such many deputies are afraid to use force when it is necessary and appropriate. This is true with supervisors as well. Many deputies are doing anything to avoid using force that would bring upper management's and/or the media's spotlight on them. This natural reaction has created serious safety issues for both deputies and inmates.
These concerns and issues of safety, security, and inmate assaults against staff have been relayed to City Administration in great detail at a September 19th FOP meeting attended by Stephanie O'Malley, Executive Director of Public Safety and again a few days later during a separate meeting with the rank & file deputies. To date there has been no significant action or response, lending to more frustration and anger in the workforce.
It is interesting to note that once the Mayor's office and the Sheriff's Department became aware of this rally they sent letters today addressing some of the concerns they know we have. Sadly this is simply a continuation of the way they have been doing business. It is our opinion and that of the workforce that these responses were designed for political purposes and to lighten the impact of the Monday's upcoming rally. They have not been received by the workforce as being very credible or anything less than a feeble attempt to get out in front of this story.
The FOP wants the community to know that we care about their safety and the security of the facilities but in the current climate it is difficult to maintain order in the facility. Which means that the public is at risk for escapes or some type of disturbance, and that is why we will stay silent NO LONGER.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.