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Police department creates new position to cut down layers of review, streamline process

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Denver Police Chief Robert White has appointed Michael Battista to the post of Conduct Review Commander; he will head all reviews of police misconduct. In announcing the appointment, White said he hoped the new structure would cut down review time by at least 50 percent. With the new addition, the Denver Police Department is "entirely restructured commencing Monday," Manager of Safety Alex Martinez said at yesterday's announcement.

The new position replaces at least four layers of extra review. While all investigations go through the DPD's Internal Affairs' fact-finding process before landing at Martinez's desk, they previously rotated through their division's chain of command along the way: district commander, division chief, bureau chief, etc. With Battista starting his new job this coming Monday, the flow will go from Internal Affairs to Battista, who will review each case and discuss it with Chief White. From there, White will give his recommendation to Martinez.

Those four steps will be the same in each division. "This will position our department for the public to see we are objective and fair," White explained. "We can manage ourselves."

Among the benefits of the new position, greater time management is the least important, White said, stressing two additional factors: the department's abilities to make all investigations consistent and to manage its own affairs. With this new procedure, he hopes to increase trust in the department for both its officers and the public.

"There were some challenges and deceptions regarding how that was done in the police department," said White. "It will bring some consistency as it relates to our findings."

When he first took the chief's job in December, White added, one of his initial impressions was that the there was "a lot of oversight" to these internal investigations.

Battista will supervise five officers -- a sergeant, three lieutenants and one captain -- in his new department. After joining the force in 1982 as a patrol officer, Battista had rotated through multiple bureaus before becoming a sergeant in 1990. Before this appointment, he'd worked as the deputy chief of operations.

In his new job, his first focus will be dealing with the "bottleneck" of cases. Last year, 200 formal investigations moved through the review process. "There is a lot of responsibility there," said Battista. "We need the system to be fair to the citizens and fair to the officers."

At the moment, the review process for most cases typically averages 60 to 90 days, according to White. By removing responsibility from officers who must also work their regular jobs and tasking one officers with the major responsibility for the review process, he hopes to cut this down to somewhere around 30 to 45 days, and squelch complaints that the entire thing takes too long. "Unfortunately, they're not just reviewing one case," White explained. "There's a possibility they're not going to give it the time it deserves."

The announcement came less than a month after the creation of an additional position to monitor police misconduct reviews through Deputy Manager of Safety Jess Vigil. While Vigil will partner with Martinez on the issue, Battista and White will work as parallel partners. And while the new system is designed to speed up the process in its entirety, there could be additional changes to make it work even more efficiently. "The process can be made faster still, but we'll see what we get with this," Martinez said. "What more they are doing or should do is not an appropriate question for me."

More from our Politics archive: "Jess Vigil named to new Department of Safety position to oversee police discipline."

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