Denver, CO

Denver police training difficult to track, oversight chair says

David Heitz
Photo byColin Lloyd/Unsplash

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The people who investigate complaints about Denver police met with the City Council Tuesday.

Julia Richman, chair of the Citizen Oversight Board, told members of the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee that it’s difficult for them to know whether police receive adequate training after complaints about abuse.

“I think training is a longstanding problem,” Richman said. She said Police Chief Thomas claims there have been some real gains on training, but there is no data to support his claims. “Who’s leading the training?” she asked. “Who’s developing it? It’s very hard for us to know what’s true in regard to training.”

Councilmember Stacie Gilmore said providing such information “seems like the least that we could possibly do,” adding most “would not want a nurse or doctor to not keep up with credentials or ongoing learning.”

But committee chair Robin Kniech told Richman that data is “knowable.” She said officers must sign attendance papers at such events. But she said more information is needed regarding whether sergeants and lieutenants reinforce the training on the beat. “That is where it does need to be reinforced.”

The Citizen Oversight Board oversees the Office of the Independent Monitor. The Office of the Independent Monitor investigates complaints about police.

Castle named new independent monitor

Lisabeth Perez Castle, who became Independent Monitor last month, said the Citizen Oversight Board “has been incredibly supportive.” She said she watched all of the board’s meetings online to catch up on business.

Castle, who has lived in Denver since 1985, told the council she “pledges to work tirelessly to again gain your trust” and “be seen as someone who is fair and also holds people accountable.” She said her office serves as “a bridge between law enforcement and the community.” She said there currently is a lack of trust between the two.

Richman told the council serving on the Citizen Oversight Board needs to pay better in order to get more diverse applicants. Members currently receive $100 per month. She proposed changing the pay to $100 per meeting, which would double members’ compensation.

Inmate dies

Richman brought up the death of Leroy Taylor, an inmate in the Denver County Jail. “Going to jail should not be a death sentence,” Richman said. She stressed it’s important to review the city’s agreements with Denver Health, which provides healthcare in the jail.

According to a presentation to the committee, the board wants to “enhance oversight and transparency of Denver Health’s performance for the city.” They also want to be able to pop in unexpectedly at jails and other locations for surprise inspections. Currently, everything is pre-arranged, Richman said.

Richman said the board also wants to “enhance transparency of processes governing misconduct and policy complaints.”

Gilmore said she believes the city is in good hands with the current board and monitor. She said she is glad the city performed a second search for the monitor after the first did not yield a strong candidate.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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