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.
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.
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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.
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