Contentious meeting discusses troubled Denver Sheriff’s Department

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DENVER -- A sizeable and vocal crowd spent their Saturday morning speaking out on reforming the troubled Denver Sheriff’s Office.

The city holds the first of four community meetings at Manual High School at 1700 E. 28th Ave.

The gathering follows several embarrassing misconduct and excessive force cases--including a multi-million dollar settlement with a former jail inmate.

The sometimes contentious meeting brought out more than 100 people from the community.

The city of Denver already has 40 recommendations on how to reform the Sheriff’s Department.

They came from three of four task forces created by the former Sheriff on how to reduce excessive force complaints.

Now, the city wants to add voices from the community to the discussion, and some of those voices were angry.

“You don’t have the political will or integrity to do the right thing for the right reason,” yelled one unidentified man at the meeting.

They crowded into a high school gym—young, old, diverse and passionate.

“All they want to do is go work and do their job, like everyone else does,” says an unidentified elderly woman, who was one of the few who stood in support of the department.

“This is a culture of violence we are talking about,” says another unidentified man.

Each of them have ideas of how to fix a broken Denver Sheriff’s Department.

“Anybody who feels anybody who is accused of crime is sleazy, should not be part of hiring procedure ,” says another elderly woman to rousing applause.

It’s a department plagued with high-profile revelations of misconduct and abuse.

One led to Denver taxpayers paying out $3.25 million to inmate Jamal Hunter who was beaten by a guard and other inmates.

“Three-and-a-quarter million dollars paid out of taxpayer money. That should come out of your budget. Your money, you pay for it," yelled one man, as applause erupt around him.

“You need to stop this mess, because money talks and bullshit walks,” says another man.

They spoke directly to the Sheriff’s Department’s interim leader, Elias Diggins, along with the group charged with seeing the department through this monumental change.

“I hear your concern about that and that definitely will be taken into consideration in enhancing the Sheriff’s Department,” said Department of Public Safety Executive Director, Stephanie O’Malley.

They want opinions in five areas: from what they want in a new sheriff, to discipline, policies and procedures, staff well-being and training.

“I have a question whether there will be criminal prosecution of deputies who are found to be ringleaders of the gangs that are roaming around doing this stuff, and ganging up on inmates and beating them up and sending them to hospitals?” asked one man.

The folks in the agency who violate policies and procedures are and will be held accountable,” says Diggins.

City leaders pledge on behalf of themselves and the Sheriff’s Department’s 900 employees that they’re committed to becoming better.

“We will get this right. We do our best to get it right. Thank you for being here,” says Mayor Michael Hancock.

The public has the chance to give their input on reforms the next two Saturday mornings, and then onTuesday, September 23.

All that input that will collected and then given to a consulting firm—that has yet to-be-hired.

That firm will do a top-to-bottom review of the Sheriff’s Department, as well as help find a new sheriff.

For more information visit: denvergov.org/DSDreform.

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