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Independent Monitor finalists talk immigration, independence, racial profiling

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Today, Mayor Michael Hancock will interview the last three candidates for Denver's open Independent Monitor position -- again. In the second round of a search that has lasted six months, finalists Kenneth Moore, Nicholas Mitchell and Gary Maas all share connections to Colorado. Last night, they answered questions from the public at Escuela Tlatelolco, where their opinions on the future of the role occasionallly differed as much as the patterns on their ties.

Prior to his current position as the associate director for the Colorado Department of Corrections, Maas worked as the police chief in Littleton and Sioux City, Iowa. Attorney Nicholas Mitchell's past experience includes time as an investigator for New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board, where he took part in more than 300 investigations alleging police misconduct. For more than two decades, Kenneth Moore has worked for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. To read more about their extensive backgrounds, visit our original coverage.

Topics from this group's one and only community forum included racial profiling, comprehensive immigration reform and Occupy Denver's infamous honking case. But early discussions centered on the relationship between Manager of Safety Alex Martinez and the upcoming independent monitor -- specifically, what that relationship should be.

While Maas told his audience he'd like to see an impartial relationship, Moore said he "wouldn't have any problem reporting to the Manager of Safety. At least today, I found him to be a prudent, intelligent man." Mitchell echoed former Independent Monitor Richard Rosenthal's sentiments when he took the opposite stance, referring to the ordinance that created the position. "I think it's entirely critical that the monitor remain independent and report only to the mayor and the people," Mitchell said.

Mitchell, whose family features both police officers and a federal agent, advocated a monitor who is "extraordinarily proactive. The next independent monitor needs to...be doing early prevention, identifying problems before they hit the newspapers."

Page down to read more about the Independent Monitor forum. Moore, who currently lives in Phoenix, grew up in Colorado Springs with a mother who immigrated from Mexico, and rates the position's priorities in this order: The community comes first, then the agency, then the officer.

"If I got the position, I'd have to buy lots of new shoes," Moore said, "because I'd be walking your days and routes. I can make a lot of ground with these two feet and meet with everyone in the community."

All three men spoke about the current perceptions of the police department, which all believe could be improved, while praising its high standards in comparison to others. Each candidate believes that racial profiling exists in the community and would seek to target it should they be named to the Office of the Independent Monitor. "The officers who engage in that kind of conduct should not be in that line of work," Maas said bluntly, urging early warning indicators as a method of avoiding the aftermath of racial profiling.

When it came to their opinions on comprehensive immigration -- a topic broached by one audience member -- all three men deftly avoided a definitive response, instead speaking about equal treatment for all groups. "I don't think any of you should ever need to feel that when a Denver Police car gets behind you, you need to be scared or worried," Maas told an audience of around thirty people.

During their trip to Denver, Maas, Moore and Mitchell have already met with Martinez and Police Chief Robert White, in addition to officials at the sheriff and fire departments. After interviewing the candidates, Hancock is expected to announce his decision within "the next few weeks," according to the Independent Monitor Candidate Screening Committee.

This is the second time Hancock and company have undergone this process. Rosenthal, Denver's first Independent Monitor, announced in December that he was leaving for a job in Vancouver, and the position has since stayed open for more than six months. In April, the city invited three early finalists to community forums, but when Hancock offered candidate Julie Ruhlin the job, she rejected it, opting instead to remain in Los Angeles County. In June, the screening committee reopened the selection process and whittled the 72 total applications in this second round to 32 who met the criteria of the position. Eventually, they invited eleven for interviews. Eight accepted, and the three finalists spoke last night.

In the interim, deputy monitor Gregg Crittenden has served as Denver's independent monitor. Within the next month, on thing is certain: He will be replaced by a man with the last intial M.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Michael Hancock announces three new finalists for independent monitor."

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