Mayoral candidates focus on DPD relationship with community

9:55 PM, Apr 7, 2011   |    comments
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They sat in the front of a sanctuary built in 1892 to have a discussion about rebuilding the community's faith in a department as old as the City of Denver.

"Over the past couple of years we've been let down," Doug Linkhart said.

He talked about the 700 complaints against the Denver Police Department this year. He told the audience at Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Denver that Denver is in the top 10 departments in the country for excessive force.

All the candidates agreed there is work to be done to repair the relationship between the police department and the community.

"We must never ever forget that the police department is there to serve and protect us," Michael Hancock said.

"There is nothing more important between police and the public than to have a confidence and trust they are holding a safe city and that people are able to report crime without retribution," James Mejia said.

"We have a lot of great police officers, but there are some serious issues that have been going on a long time and we need to fix it, we need to address them," Theresa Spahn added.

The incident in Lower Downtown Denver in April 2009 is perhaps one of the most damaging. Officer Devin Sparks was videotaped striking an unarmed Michael DeHerrera at least eight times with a club. He and Cpl. Randy Murr were fired last month, nearly two years later.

Ken Simpson calls it "ridiculous" that it takes so long to resolve cases involving officers.

"We need to dismiss officers in a two week time period not 18 months," Simpson said.

Carol Boigon talked about the public needing to be included in the process.

"We have to have transparency and we have to have faster resolutions and I think that will do a lot to make people feel like the city is working," she said.

Linkhart wants to make a change at the top, saying longtime Chief Gerald Whitman needs to be replaced.

"We also need to install community policing and get rid of some layers that are making discipline cases take so long," he said.

"First we need a change in leadership at the top with the police chief, second we need transparency, and third we need more training throughout the force." Chris Romer said.

Thomas Wolf took a business approach.

"When you tie compensation to that behavior and make it directly impact a cop's wallet, they will listen," Wolf said.

All eight candidates hope to lead the City of Denver. They say they know a vital part of that job is public safety. They talked about the reality most Denver Police officers are dedicated and trustworthy.

But they understand the greater public perception is quickly damaged by the actions of a few.

"The answer is finding leadership that is committed to working on the culture of the police department, that is willing to be held accountable and hold officers accountable," Hancock said.

The forum was put on by the ACLU and the National Lawyer's Guild.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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