Community, officials weigh in on progress of Denver jail reforms

Listen Now
Photo: Denver mayor announces sheriff's resignation
Flanked by city officials, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, center, announces the resignation of Sheriff Gary Wilson, at far right, on Monday, July 21, 2014.

Members of the community expressed anger and doubt about Denver's jail reform efforts in a a report from the Denver government highlighting efforts so far.

"Officers who abuse and break the law should be arrested. This is a farce," read one comment in the report, that came from a public forum at the Highland Senior Center.

More than 150 Sheriff's Department employees took part in their own forum and said reforms aren't addressing their needs.

"Discipline has been heavy-handed and causes fear in the workplace. Staffing issues decrease our safety. Extra training, better equipment and staffing are what we need," said one comment in the report.

Another said, "We can’t be an afterthought anymore. We are thought of after the Denver Police Department. The issues lead back to staffing levels. We are continually asked to do more with less."

Sheriff's commanders say that stories in the press are "hurting morale" for their employees.

Director of Safety Stephanie O'Malley on reforms

In an interview with Colorado Matters, City Director of Safety Stephanie O'Malley endorses the new values under development by a 21-member Discipline Task Force of law-enforcement officials and experts.

“We recognize that as a value statement that deputies need to afford dignity and respect to inmates in their engagement with them,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley says that more punitive measures are being considered for deputies, such as harsher penalties for a deputy who fails to report potential abuses at the hands of fellow deputies.

Currently, deputies can't be fired for failing to report potential abuses at the hands of fellow deputies.

Department addressing inmate complaints

The Sheriff's Internal Affairs Bureau is now conducting 189 investigations that stem from inmate complaints, according to the Department of Safety. That's up by 75 investigations since July.

That number does not include dozens of other inmates complaints that did not lead to formal investigations into the conduct of deputies.

About a month ago, Denver announced that former Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson would lead efforts to reduce the backlog of cases. The city has also added six on-call investigators to help an existing staff of seven.

CPR News' Megan Arellano contributed to this report.