Updated Feb 1, 2023 - News

Denver's new law enforcement watchdog wants to work with the public

Denver Independent Monitor Liz Perez Castle. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Denver's new law enforcement watchdog says she wants to work closely with the people keeping her accountable.

What's happening: Liz Perez Castle was confirmed as Denver's independent monitor in January following a lengthy search to fill the role. Castle is a former public defender who most recently worked as a defense attorney in Denver.

  • The monitor is a civilian position overseeing public and internal complaints made against the city's law enforcement agencies.
  • She takes over the role two years after former independent monitor Nick Mitchell left the post to supervise jail reform Los Angeles.

Why it matters: Castle starts the job as police and community relations are thrust back into the national spotlight following the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis officers.

Driving the news: Castle told Axios Denver in a recent interview she plans on combining feedback from law enforcement agencies and the public to make policy recommendations involving training and other policing methods.

  • Castle said the office is nationally renowned, and wants to continue its reputable work.
  • She said she's already met with Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins and Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas about collaborating more with the public.

What they're saying: Local police reform activist Alexander Landau, who runs the Denver Justice Project, said Castle is the right person for the job because she envisions her office collaborating with the public — which Landau said the previous independent monitor did successfully.

Between the lines: Castle said the public has repeatedly asked her to focus on helping young people avoid run-ins with police, and she highlighted a program run by the monitor's office as helping with outreach and improving community relationships with law enforcement.

  • Bridging the Gap lets students meet with officers, giving them a chance to ask questions, have meals together and discuss topics like implicit bias.

What we're hearing: Robert Davis, co-leader of the Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety, tells Axios Denver he was glad her hiring was "community-centered" and said he's "hopeful" she will succeed in the role.

  • Castle participated in public forums after being named a finalist, and was asked questions directly from the public, which Davis lauded.
  • Landau said with a new police chief, a new independent monitor, and a new mayor coming this spring, he feels optimistic about the future of public safety in the city.
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