A new report from the independent watchdog for the Denver police and sheriff’s departments revealed that 2016 saw the highest number of shootings involving Denver Police officers in five years.
The report released Wednesday from the Office of the Independent Monitor showed 18 officers were involved in 12 shootings that resulted in six deaths and injuries to five people. By comparison, there were 10 DPD officer-involved shootings in 2015, six in 2014, nine in 2013 and eight in 2012.
Former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said his office reviewed every case detailed in the OIM report.
“The patterns that I saw in every single situation, the individual was armed or the officer believed they were armed,” Morrissey explained.
Morrissey said 2016 was a dangerous time to be a police officer. He said in some cases, suspects fired at officers or pointed weapons before officers opened fire.
“Unfortunately, there were a lot of people out there with guns that were not going to comply with the law, were not going to comply with lawful orders and they left the officers with nothing else to do but shoot them in situations that were self-defense, defense of others or trying to protect the public,” Morrissey said.
Lisa Calderon, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum, an advocacy organization for Latino issues, said the number of DPD officer-involved shootings in 2016 was alarming though not surprising.
“The report validates concern we’ve been raising for several years,” Calderón said.
Calderón said she was concerned about what she called a disproportionate number of Latinos involved in DPD shootings.
The 2016 report from the OIM detailed the race and gender of the 13 community members involved in DPD shootings. All the community members were male, six were white, four were black and three were Hispanic.
A spokesman for Denver Police said the department takes the newest OIM report seriously and would use it as a learning opportunity. The spokesman said each of the 12 officer-involved shootings in 2016 was investigated on its merit and thoroughly reviewed.
9NEWS also reached out to the head of the Denver Police Protective Association, DPD’s police union. Nick Rogers said the number of officer-involved shootings fluctuates each year, adding that he’d like the number to be zero.
Rogers said it’s often the “criminal, not the officer, who dictates what happens” in situations where officers use their firearms.
A Denver city ordinance requires the Office of the Independent Monitor to release its annual report by March 15th. The report also tracks the number of complaints recorded by the Denver Police Department each year.
In 2016, the number of complaints received by DPD slightly declined, and the department recorded 388 community complaints against DPD officers compared to 396 complaints in 2015.
The report showed the number of internal complaints dropped from 110 in 2015 to 93 in 2016. The 2016 OIM report also revealed two DPD officers were fired and 11 resigned or retired during an investigation or while a disciplinary action was pending.