DENVER - It's a decision that has the potential to affect everyone living along the Front Range.
Denver Police Chief Robert White wants to replace all the sworn CSI officers at the new Denver Crime lab with civilians within a year.
The brand new Denver Crime lab works on thousands of criminal cases.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey says this quick change will put everyone at risk.
"Civilianizing the crime scene unit at the speed they're talking about doing I believe is reckless," Morrissey told 9NEWS Feb. 11.
"When we do replace those sworn officers and we do hire civilians to replace them, they will be very qualified," Chief White countered.
Since the 9NEWS story about the proposed change first aired, 9NEWS Crime and Justice Reporter Anastasiya Bolton has been working on a follow up.
Police officers from any agency don't typically talk to the media unless authorized. Bolton was able to interview a newly retired crime lab detective, with a position about putting civilians in his old job.
DETECTIVE ROBERT FRY
Detective Robert Fry spent 37 years at the Denver Police Department.
"Expressing opinions can result in suddenly you're not in the assignment you thought you were going to be in," he said. "You're trying to protect that, so you don't talk to the media."
"I wouldn't be having this conversation with you today if I was not retired," Fry said.
Fry spent the last 13 years of his career at the Denver Crime Lab.
"I feel like I've grabbed the last seat in the lifeboat pulling away from the Titanic," Fry said. "The intention is not to harm anyone, the intention is to say I or we have an opinion here also. We've been doing the job and we haven't been asked about it."
Detective Fry is against Denver Police Chief White's proposal to replace 15 CSI officers with civilians by the end of the year.
For him, it's partially about the loss of training and experience too quickly.
"I can tell you right now, come to a crime scene unit as a new person and to start receiving your training and to start doing what you're doing a year isn't enough to feel comfortable out there," he said.
Collectively, the dozen officers at the lab now have more than 240 years of police experience and years of expensive specialty training already paid for by taxpayers.
"Ballistics, blood spatter, testimony," Fry said as he rattled off the extra training he's taken, showing off 18 certificates, "evidence collection, crime scene reconstruction."
All that will be gone from the Denver Crime Lab by October.
"I can't necessarily put a dollar value on that. We do bring a lot [to the crime lab]," Fry said.
Chief White is not one to decline interviews, but his spokesperson told 9NEWS since the chief already answered questions on the subject in February; he was not going to comment again.
On Feb. 11, he told 9NEWS he's doing this to save taxpayer money and put more officers on the street.
"It will absolutely work," White told Bolton. "We'll put the right people there. We'll make sure they have the right training. This is not a first time thing being done across the country. It's new for Denver, but it's something that's done in major police departments around the country. It is proven to be effective."
The chief's office provided 9NEWS a study, showing a number of police departments across the country where civilianization worked.
"Let's look at the main reasons: efficiencies and effectiveness," White said. "If it doesn't require a gun and badge, really should police officers should be doing it? Especially if we are doing everything we can to get more resources in those communities."
"One of the big motivators for this has been has been putting more officers back on the street," Fry said. "We're already on the street."
Fry and the Police Protective Association, question how many of the 15 positions will actually end up on patrol.
"If we're talking about 15 people, 15 officers being put back on the street that's not enough to make a dent in this city of 600 plus thousand," PPA president Nick Rogers told Bolton. "Almost 1400 police officers on the Denver Police Department. It's not going to change the lives of anybody on the street. What will change the lives of the citizens in the city and county of Denver is putting civilians out there to process these crime scenes. We can't let this happen."
Fry is one of the 15. He just retired. The unit has three supervisors and five detectives applied for other jobs on the department as part of the realignment, Chief White told 9NEWS.
"I think the pluses far outweigh the criticisms and the negatives as it relates to this decision," White said during the Feb. interview.
Fry wonders whether saving $350,000 dollars is worth it.
"Shouldn't this be about justice for the victims of crimes and our ability to do that to the best that we can?" he said.
9NEWS contacted Mayor Michael Hancock's office four times over the course of covering the story. Chief White answers to the mayor. Hancock's office declined to give 9NEWS a comment or an interview all four times.
9NEWS also contacted all 13 members of the Denver City Council.
City Council President Mary Beth Susman wrote the following in an email to 9NEWS:
"Chief White was brought in to make our law enforcement more responsive and community minded, and to get more officers engaged with our community by putting more officers on our streets. He is following the path of many other municipalities that analyze the need for uniformed officers in desk jobs, and how non-uniformed expertise can be used to free up our trained officers for better law enforcement. Change is difficult, but I am confident that the Chief will hire well-qualified personnel for the crime lab and continue with his mission to free up trained expert law enforcement personnel that can provide the best protection services for the community."
Jeanne Faatz, emailed saying, "Mitch Morrissey is a nationally recognized expert in DNA. He knows the quality of evidence testing and technician experience he needs to win trials and sustain convictions. While civilianizing the crime lab over time makes sense, the new police chief needs to find a "timing" compromise that retains DA confidence in the evidence he is given."
A number of other members either didn't respond to the 9NEWS inquiry said they didn't have a position or didn't know enough about the subject to comment.
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