Nov 30, 2022 - Politics

Denver's independent monitor finalists make public pitch

From left: Lisabeth Castle and Mary Opler. Photo: Courtesy of the Citizens Oversight Board

The two candidates seeking Denver's top law enforcement watchdog role made pitches to the public, agreeing whoever assumes the position must help defend people's civil rights.

Driving the news: Lisabeth Castle, a local criminal defense attorney, and Mary Opler, who works in civilian oversight in Sacramento, California, answered questions virtually at a Tuesday evening meeting.

Catch up quick: The Citizen Oversight Board, responsible for appointing the monitor, named its two finalists earlier this month.

  • The role has been vacant since January 2021, though Gregg Crittenden has served in the position on an interim basis.
  • The independent monitor is responsible for overseeing public and internal complaints made against police and sheriffs deputies, and critical incidents involving law enforcement shootings and other use of force.

Between the lines: The candidates shared concerns about how information was released to the public in the aftermath of Denver's police shooting in July that left six bystanders injured.

  • Community members and activists have called for more transparency in the wake of the incident, which remains under review by a grand jury.

What they're saying: Castle characterized law enforcement's messaging to the public between the shooting itself and the release of body-worn camera footage as "spin."

  • She added that when officers know a monitor is overseeing complaints, that can help keep information "genuine" for the public.
  • Opler said she was aware of Denver's outrage after this summer's LoDo shooting from her perch in Sacramento. Specifically, she was "very concerned" by press releases that she said didn't match the footage from the event. In California, she said her staff is on scene after such an incident involving police, and noted the same is true in Denver, but she'd like to see the process improve.

Zoom in: When asked about weaknesses in Denver's independent monitor's office, Opler said she wants to see a better plan for how the community, including activists, can get more involved.

  • Castle said one flaw is the monitor can't directly discipline officers, though it can make disciplinary recommendations.

What's next: If the board picks a candidate, it will send that selection to the Denver City Council for final approval.


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