New Denver Police chief: I have zero-tolerance for excessive force

8:44 PM, Dec 12, 2011   |    comments
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"I believe we have one of the best police departments in the nation," Hancock said. "It's time for the rest of the nation and our community to know that we have a police department we can be proud of."

White says clearing up a police department's image tarnished by excessive force allegations will involve building respect between officers and community members.

"Citizens might disagree with you," he said. "But if they respect you, they will give you the benefit of the doubt."

White plans to gain that respect by spending much of his time outside of the police department's downtown building.

"You will see me everywhere. I will be in churches. I'll be in community groups. If they invite me, I'll be there.... Sometimes if they don't invite me, I'll be there," said White, adding that he plans to show up at the Occupy Denver site, after meeting with commanding officers responsible for securing the area.

White most recently served as chief of the police department in Louisville, Kentucky for eight years. That department was faced with challenges similar to Denver's police department.

"There were controversial shootings. There were racial issues," White recalled.

Supporters credit White with turning around the department in Louisville. Some fellow officers resisted White's leadership, giving him a negative review in 2005. Some Denver Police officers circulated that information in an e-mail, along with false allegations of White failing a drug test more than 20 years ago. They questioned White's ability to lead the department as an "outsider."

"A lot of that is kind of silliness. And it's designed to be a distraction," White said.

He added he plans on working to gain the trust and respect of Denver Police officers.

"Some of them are concerned, probably legitimately, because they need to be concerned because they probably haven't been held accountable for some of the things they've done in the past," he said.

In his first sit-down television interview, White told 9NEWS that he wants to look at DPD's excessive force investigation process to see if any changes need to be made.

"I have a zero-tolerance policy on excessive force," White said. "Officers who are convicted through the judicial process of excessive force; they are going to have an issue with me."

In an effort to reduce crime, White feels that if the public respects the police, then if there is an instance of excessive force, it will be a "one-day story and not a 10-day story."

"I'm interested in preventing crime for the long run," White said.

White thinks that a small percentage of officers are generating negative attention for the entire department.

"You've probably got 5 percent of the people that are not really suited to be police officers and they get 90 percent of the media attention," he said. "So part of my job is selling the good stories about what the men and women in the police department are doing every single day."

White is the first African-American chief of the Denver Police Department. He is not focused, though, on his place in history.

"I'd like to think I was selected because I was the best person. And I just happened to be an African American," he said.

White is taking over for Chief Gerry Whitman, who held the position for 12 years. Whitman will become a captain under White.

During Monday's swearing-in ceremony, the crowd gathered gave former chief Whitman a standing ovation for his service.

White will earn $167,466 in total annual salary, including $5,760 in yearly longevity pay for his 39 years of service.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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