The fallout continues following Mayor Michael Hancock's apology for inappropriate texts sent to Denver police officer Leslie Branch-Wise. The scandal has led to veiled lawsuit threats from an attorney representing Wayne McDonald, a former Hancock pal who won $200,000 in a previous suit over his 2012 firing from a position with the mayor; he'd supposedly made similarly problematic comments to Branch-Wise. And it's also emboldened critics such as the Colorado Latino Forum's Lisa Calderón, organizer of a March 7 march to call for Hancock's resignation.
Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association, doesn't go quite as far as Calderón. But he sees the Branch-Wise matter as another example of Hancock's flawed leadership.
"There's a definite air of Chicago-type corruption in the City and County of Denver right now," Rogers says, "and I don't think the citizens deserve that."
The DPPA issued a scathing attack on Hancock over the Branch-Wise matter; it's reproduced in its entirety at the bottom of this post. But Rogers's biggest current beef with the mayor involves what he sees as his lack of action in regard to a separate issue involving Denver Police Chief Robert White and Deputy Chief Matt Murray that dates back to June 2016.
That month, then-Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey reportedly sent White a letter taking Murray to task for his role in the arrests of Angiella Arnot and Davin Munk, a Denver police officer, for alleged unwanted sex with a second woman. In the end, Morrissey didn't charge either party, and he suggested in his communications with White that Arnot never should have been busted in the first place — and that he felt she'd only been taken into custody because of Murray's efforts.
After learning about the letter's existence, Rogers tried to get a copy via a public-records request but was rejected, supposedly because neither White nor Murray had it anymore. After the letter belatedly materialized, Beth McCann, Morrissey's successor as DA, investigated whether White and Murray had broken the Colorado Open Records Act for declining to disclose the missive; she eventually determined that she lacked the evidence to charge them with a crime. What's been described as an independent investigation by a law firm called Employment Matters followed, but no action was taken by Manager of Safety Stephanie O'Malley before she left her job last month in favor of a newly created position as special assistant to Hancock. Moreover, Troy Riggs, O'Malley's predecessor, has said a final determination isn't likely to arrive before summer.
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None of this sits right with Rogers, who lays much of the blame for the situation at Hancock's door.
"He has allowed a chief of police and a deputy chief of police to not be held accountable for their actions," he maintains. "They have zero respect with the rank and file. The mayor knows that, but the mayor will not act upon it — and I think it's high time that somebody steps forward and says, 'That's enough.'"
To Rogers, what he considers to be a leadership vacuum has had ripple effects.
"We've had more murders so far this year than we had almost all last year," he estimates, "and we're at a point right now where we're in danger of losing the city. We're going to lose the streets. We've done so much good work to make the city safe again, but I've got to tell you, the officers have had enough. They're tired of being led by people who don't have honor and integrity."
After Branch-Wise went public with her complaints about Hancock, sharing texts that included one in which he asked if she'd ever taken a pole-dancing class, the mayor said he was sorry for his behavior, albeit without calling what he'd done sexual harassment. But to Rogers, these words aren't nearly enough.
"If the mayor apologizes and that's it — if nothing happens to him — then what do you tell a cop who makes a mistake? What if he just apologizes? Wouldn't that be enough?" he asks. "But, no. The cop gets suspended for thirty days without pay. He doesn't get to feed his family or pay his mortgage on time."
Over his 32 years as a police officer, Rogers goes on, "I've been lucky enough to work for chiefs who I could look up to — like Dave Michaud, who was a great man. But our officers, and especially our young officers, don't have a role model. They have people who lie, they have people who won't tell the truth. The lowest officer on the street should have a tremendous amount of pride in who the chief is, and we don't have that right now — and we don't have that with our mayor. I mean, let's talk about Stephanie O'Malley. She leaves the Manager of Safety position and they create a new one for her. How does that happen? How does that work?"
Nonetheless, Rogers isn't ready to make a public call for Hancock's resignation. "I don't think I'm in a position to make that comment," he allows. "I think the voters are in that position. I'm very quick to call for the termination and firing of my police chief and Matt Murray because of the wrongdoings they've done, since I work directly for them. They are the head of my agency. But with Mayor Hancock, I just think they need to judge him by his body of work."
Here's the aforementioned DPPA statement about Hancock and now-Denver police detective Leslie Branch-Wise.
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Denver Police Protective Association statement:
The Denver Police Protective Association stands in support and solidarity with our member who has endured sexual misconduct in the workplace at the highest level. We recognize the hardship this has brought to her, her family and other members through this difficult time.
In today's climate, with the proliferation of sexual misconduct by prominent public figures and elected officials who are entrusted with great power, our members are saddened to learn the City of Denver is now affected by this epidemic. While we are aware that this isn't the first time the Mayor's name has been associated with sexual scandal, we consider the allegations against Mayor Michael Hancock very serious. We urge the people of Denver to be adamant that our City officials are held accountable to the highest standard for their behavior and actions.
The Denver Police Protective Association commends the bravery and courage of what Time magazine named "The Silence Breakers" and those who continue to come forward. We are determined to create a workplace where all women are free from sexual harassment, misconduct and assault, and vow to expose any retaliation....
We also support and encourage others who have been victimized to come forward, as there will always be support for those who have experienced sexual misconduct.