DENVER (KDVR) — After 28 years with the Denver Police Department, Chief Paul Pazen will retire from his role on Oct. 15, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

Pazen’s nearly three-decade tenure with Colorado’s largest police department included serving as Commander in District 1 for six years before assuming his role as chief in 2018. He is a five-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp, which included a tour in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm.

Pazen oversaw the department through the COVID-19 pandemic and marched with protestors during unrest over the police killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.

The City and County of Denver was found liable for $14 million after a jury found Denver Police officers violated protestors’ rights during demonstrations that injured dozens that summer. The Problem Solvers spoke with seven protestors who suffered significant eye injuries from police projectiles during the demonstrations. Dozens of Denver police officers were also injured.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of this city, and I couldn’t be prouder to have done it alongside these dedicated women and men of the department who’ve answered the call to protect the residents of Denver no matter the circumstance,” Pazen said in a statement. “It’s important to me that the next police chief take the reins at this time so the department and our officers are well positioned for the future of policing in our community.”

Part of Pazen’s legacy will also be defined by his push for a co-responder program that has become a national model in diverting law enforcement resources away from low-level 911 calls.

The Support Team Assistance Response, or STAR, Program sends paramedics and trained mental and behavioral health experts to 911 calls for drug use, trespassing and other non-violent offenses, and was expanded after a successful pilot.

A study found Denver’s program saved the city money and reduced low-level crime.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock also announced Division Chief Ron Thomas will be his nominee to serve as the city’s next police chief. Thomas will oversee the day-to-day management of the department starting Sept. 6.

Thomas has been part of the Denver Police Department for 33 years. He most recently served as the division chief of patrol for the department.

The mayor has asked Thomas to create and implement new strategies to reduce crime and aggressively recruit new police officers after the loss of 170 uniformed DPD officers over the course of the pandemic.

Hancock has also asked Thomas to work on improving the relationship between the community and the Denver Police Department.

The mayor’s administration will begin the process of confirming Thomas by sending a bill to the city council safety committee, which will need to be approved by the full council.

Former mayoral candidate Lisa Calderón said in reaction to the news, “It’s been high time for Chief Pazen to go. Record payouts for police brutality, a DPD mass shooting & lost community trust. Hopefully, other safety heads will soon follow. The next Denver mayor needs to make a clean sweep. If Pazen even thinks about running for mayor we’re ready.”