THE BLOG
04/20/2011 01:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2011

Denver's Public Safety Department: Building Trust Through Leadership, Transparency and Accountability

Public safety is one of the most pressing issues awaiting the next mayor of Denver. Public safety commands nearly 50% of Denver's general fund budget and affects every citizen every day. Recently, our public safety officers have come under increased scrutiny. The unwise actions of a few have negatively impacted the reputation of entire departments. I strongly believe that in spite of recent incidents involving the Denver Police and Sheriff Departments, Denver has some of the finest and most dedicated public safety officers in the country. However, there are issues that require immediate attention. Discipline for misconduct must be both fair and swift and investigations must be transparent. As mayor, I will hold leadership accountable for enforcing standards of conduct and imposing discipline. My appointment of the manager of safety will ensure the people's voice is heard and that sound oversight of the various divisions within the manager of safety's office is firmly established. Finally, I will seek active community involvement in policy development to serve the safety needs of Denver's neighborhoods. We need to honor and respect the relationship between safety officials and our community.

As Denver's next mayor, one of my priorities will be to enhance citizen trust and confidence in our police and sheriff's departments. These steps will enhance trust and lay the groundwork for collaboration between all of the public safety departments and the people of Denver.

Swift Discipline and Transparency

It is unacceptable that it has taken years for some cases of misconduct to be resolved. It is also unacceptable that information released to the public has been severely limited during investigations. When a civilian is accused of a crime, the decision to prosecute is normally measured in months with a final resolution within six months. The same should be expected from our public safety departments. When I am mayor, I will put forth best efforts to see that every misconduct allegation is investigated and brought to resolution within six months of the initial report. During the investigation, the public will be provided with limited reporting including the status of the investigation, with a full report to be made public at its conclusion.

Recent high profile cases involving the Denver Police Department and the Denver City Jail have resulted in a loss of confidence and trust from the people of Denver in our public safety officers. The message these cases have sent is that when misconduct occurs, safety officers are not held to the same standard as civilians. As a city we need to demonstrate to the public that public safety officers are held to a higher standard with swift and transparent investigations. Trust and confidence from our citizenry is necessary for our officers to effectively perform their duties.

Public safety also needs to be more transparent with incidents affecting the general public. For example, in 2009 there was a rash of assaults that took place in LoDo yet information on the assaults was not released to the public in a timely manner. Earlier this year, a judge sealed results of a grand jury investigation into the series of attacks. It is a matter of safety that the public, who patronize LoDo, is made aware of what is happening in their city and is informed of the police and grand jury investigation. When I am mayor, I will ensure that if similar incidents occur the public will be informed of the status of the investigation. An informed public can become a critical deterrent to this type of crime.

Accountability

When misconduct occurs, the responsibility for actions of officers immediately falls on their superiors. In many of the recent cases, action was passed up the chain of command until the cases landed on the desks of the manager of safety and the mayor. As mayor, I will hold all commanders and chiefs at the division level responsible for the actions of their officers. Those responsible for officer training, supervision and management must communicate to the officers the public's expectation and that the ramifications of misconduct will be swift.

The discipline matrix developed by both the police and sheriff's departments is a good start. I will work with the manager of safety, fire department and firefighters union to develop a similar matrix for the Denver Fire Department. The matrix is an essential tool that defines violations and resulting punishment setting a clear standard for performance.

Accountability will lead to more efficient operations for our safety agencies. If standards and discipline are clearly defined and enforced, we are then well on our way in rectifying the current issues.

Accountability will require strong leadership. When I am sworn in as mayor, I will require the police chief, fire chief, manager of safety and the undersheriff to submit letters of resignation. I will conduct both a national and internal search for new chiefs and undersheriff. Public Safety leadership in my administration will be decisive and accountable and will have a strong sense of community.

Manager of Public Safety

Denver faces a $100 million budget deficit and some have suggested eliminating the office of the manager of public safety. Since 2009, Denver has had four different managers of public safety. As a result, those who would eliminate this position argue other departments can absorb the duties performed by the manager. I strongly disagree. I believe the manager of public safety plays a critical role in the management and oversight of Denver's public safety departments. The manager is the de facto sheriff of Denver, overseeing the Denver Jail and providing security to our courts. The manager is the last word on discipline, hiring and promotion within the departments. The manager provides essential coordination in times of extreme emergency, and provides community outreach and education. Eliminating the manager of safety would result in additional direct reports to the mayor's office, far too numerous for an effective management strategy.

In addition to overseeing the police, fire and sheriff's departments, the manager of safety is responsible for functions that operate independently from these departments. The Department of Safety handles the intake of all calls to Denver 911 and is responsible for law enforcement dispatch. The Department facilitates the Division of Community Corrections which includes: (1) community corrections, which provides an alternative to incarceration, (2) electronically monitoring offenders sentenced to probation or in-home detention, and (3) pretrial investigation and supervision of the accused, and (4) the Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver (GRID) whose goals are to reduce the recidivism rate for gang members and reduce violent crime, change the behavior of program participants and improve collaboration between all partners involved in the initiative.

An independent office better serves the totalities of the operational and oversight responsibilities managed by the manager of safety. Dividing these responsibilities among three law enforcement agencies would not be in the best safety or financial interests of our city.

The citizens of Denver need to feel safe and have the confidence that if a public safety issue arises, those charged with protecting the public will do so in a professional manner. I believe the overwhelming majority of public safety officers are true professionals who make sacrifices every day to make our city a safer place. As mayor, I will require swift discipline and transparent investigations, accountability at all levels and appoint a strong manager of safety. These efforts will improve Public Safety's image with the public and allow Denver to move beyond recent incidents that have cast a shadow over our Public Safety Department.

To learn more about my campaign for Mayor of Denver, please visit www.MejiaForMayor.com where you can read about my plan for Building a World-Class Education System. Also on the website you can find my vision for Moving Denver Forward through Economic Development , building Denver's Sustainable Future, my vision for Denver's Next Frontier, ,my commitment to Supporting & Celebrating Denver's Arts and my vision for returning our great city to be a City Within a Park.

I always welcome your ideas -- please feel free to post comments here or use the contact form on the campaign website where you can also sign-up to get involved and find out about upcoming events.