Aug 16, 2022 - News

Hiring for Denver's top watchdog reopens

Illustration of a security camera topped with police car lights

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The group tasked with finding Denver's next independent monitor says a candidate should be selected by mid-November, after a nearly two-year gap.

Driving the news: The Citizen Oversight Board, a nine-member group responsible for appointing the monitor, announced Aug. 5 that it was again accepting applications for the position.

Why it matters: The monitor serves as the city's top law enforcement watchdog, overseeing complaints made about the fire, police and sheriff's departments.

  • The position has been vacant for over a year, though Gregg Crittenden has served as interim director after previously working as senior deputy monitor.
  • Other duties include monitoring investigations into officer shootings and in-custody deaths, and making recommendations about findings and discipline related to complaints.

Context: Former independent monitor Nick Mitchell left in January 2021 to oversee Los Angeles County jails, and the office hasn't had a permanent director while the police department has faced major controversies.

State of play: Oversight board chair Julia Richman told Axios Denver that the job will be listed for at least a month. "We want to strike this balance of moving quickly but also have the right community input into the process," she said.

  • A screening committee will vet candidates in September, before the public gets a chance to meet finalists in October.
  • If things go as planned, Richman said the group will name the next independent monitor by mid-November, adding that a strong candidate will need to understand things like jail management, police work, community engagement and city politics.

Yes, but: Richman said setbacks are expected when hiring for such a specialized role, adding that Mitchell was selected during the second round of that hiring process.

Between the lines: The board issued a statement responding to the July 17 police shooting that left six bystanders wounded after police shot at a man whom officers said pointed a handgun at them.

  • "There is no circumstance where someone is having a nice night out and [is] shot by police," Richman said, adding the board chose to release the statement to let the public know it continues to advocate for the community's needs.
  • Denver police told Axios Denver on Monday that they had no updates on the incident.

What they're saying: "I don't think it should take this long to find someone. I'm frustrated," said Robert Davis, project coordinator for a task force that made policy change recommendations for local police.

  • Davis said his frustration isn't aimed at the oversight board, whose work he commended, but rather at the process itself. He agreed the three finalists were not a good fit for the city.

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