Interim Denver sheriff says she may want to remain in role permanently

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DENVER — Denver’s first female sheriff says she may want the job on a permanent basis.

“Based on the warm welcome I received and how interesting I find the department, I think that’s a distinct possibility,” said Fran Gomez, one week after she was sworn in as the interim Denver sheriff.

Gomez has spent more than three decades in law enforcement in the metro area.

She began her career as a Denver deputy in 1987 but spent most of her career with the Aurora Police Department before transitioning to the Commerce City Police Department in 2013 where she retired in 2016 as deputy chief of operations.

Gomez returned to the Denver Sheriff Department in August 2018 to oversee the Professional Standards Unit. It was just days before she made her professional homecoming that a female inmate was forced to give birth in the Denver County Jail on Smith Road.

It was a black eye for the department when video first obtained by the Problem Solvers revealed no jail nurse or deputy called an ambulance until after inmate Diana Sanchez gave birth.

“After the incident, we changed our policies a bit, and now a deputy who feels they need (to call) immediate medical assistance and feels they’re not getting immediate medical assistance can call 911,” said Gomez, adding she wants to increase comprehensive training for deputies.

The interim sheriff said she is a big fan of body cams, something the department is expected to introduce for deputies who work in the department’s Intake Unit in late 2020.

“Police departments I’ve worked in, I know they’re mutually beneficial for citizens as well as the police officers or deputies in this case,” Gomez said.

When asked about an incident Friday night involving inmate Howard Putzier allegedly attacking two female deputies — both of whom were transported to Denver Health Medical Center — Gomez said, “Luckily, I did talk to them on the phone the next day. They were both OK, so I was very happy they weren’t hurt. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s an inherent danger of the job.”

Gomez said deputies have one of the most dangerous jobs in the city, which is why she wants training to focus on de-escalation techniques.

When asked if the Denver sheriff should be an elected position like it is in most Colorado counties, Gomez replied, “I don’t think it would bring more or less accountability. I think you will hire someone and if that person is a great sheriff, that person will be a great sheriff, whether they’re elected or appointed.”

The position of Denver sheriff is appointed by the mayor.

Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration has suggested a permanent decision may not be made until early 2020.

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