| News |

Denver's New Police Chief Sworn in While Former Chief Takes a Vacation

The Denver Police Department's new chief, Paul Pazen.
The Denver Police Department's new chief, Paul Pazen.
Kenzie Bruce
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Before Paul Pazen was officially sworn in today, July 9, as chief of the Denver Police Department, ceremony host Mayor Michael Hancock gave props to retiring Chief Robert White. Thanking him for his service, Hancock urged audience members to rise and applaud White.

But as everyone's necks craned for one final look at Denver's police chief of the last six years, someone to the side of the stage informed Hancock that White wasn't there. In fact, not only was he not at the ceremony, he was thousands of miles away, vacationing in the Dominican Republican.

Ladies and gentleman, not only has Chief White left the building — he wasn't there to begin with.

As White was living his best #retirementlife on a beach, Denver dignitaries gathered in the marble tomb that is the second-floor atrium of the City and County Building to usher in Pazen, a former commander of District 1 and a Denver native who was raised by a single mother and left home only temporarily to serve in the Marines.

During the swearing-in ceremony, Hancock said that the popular Pazen was going to be missed by his district, quipping that he had received "angry" emails from residents about losing their commander to the promotion.

"One word describes our chief of police: unifier," Hancock said of his appointee, whom he affectionately refers to as Paul "Smiley" Pazen.

"There's no question that this great man we're about to swear in as chief of police is a unifier," Hancock continued.

Chief Robert White, pre-vacation...and retirement.
Chief Robert White, pre-vacation...and retirement.
Chief White's office

It was, perhaps, a double entendre, a compliment for Pazen but also a message to the force: Unlike White, who practically rode into the job on a bucking bronco, vowing to change and rearrange a department steeped in controversy, Pazen will work with the commanders and officers he's known for the nearly 25 years he's served in the DPD. The post-swearing-in reception for Pazen was even held at the headquarters of the cop union, the Denver Police Protective Association.

But Pazen can hardly rest on his laurels. He now has the task of carrying out one of White's desired legacies: the hotly anticipated revised use-of-force policy, which was supposed to see the light of the day before White's retirement but whose details are still being hammered out. The use-of-force policy will dictate how officers will interact with the public, emphasizing de-escalation tactics.

Its rollout has been contentious at best, with community groups and the police union arguing at various points in the process that they didn't get a say. (Community groups argued the same about Pazen's appointment, though many have acknowledged that he was their first pick.)

But that can all wait until tomorrow. Tonight there will be glad-handing and finger-food eating and toasting to Denver's police chief, the new leader of a small army of uniformed personnel tasked with keeping the city safe. Somewhere out there, Chief White is toasting, too.

Have questions for Pazen? Let us know before Wednesday in a comment or at editorial@westword.com.

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.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.