Denver didn’t comply with some misconduct settlements, group says

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The Citizen Oversight Board called for more oversight and compliance in its 2023 annual report.

DENVER — When a city makes a payment to settle a lawsuit involving misconduct by police or deputies, sometimes they agree to terms that don’t involve money, like changes to policy or practices.

Denver’s Citizen Oversight Board (COB) said it found examples when the city failed to comply with nonmonetary terms or only did part of the work.

COB makes recommendations regarding policy and training issues for public safety agencies. In the group’s 2023 annual report released Friday, it lists oversight on settlements as one of its top concerns.

The report notes nonmonetary terms are usually not disclosed to the public when settlements are approved by the City Council.

COB said it found a few examples where the city failed to follow with the letter or the spirit of a settlement term, but figuring out how often this happens has been difficult for the board’s chairperson.

“We asked them directly. We also asked them if they had materials that related to their fulfillment of those requirements. In some cases, they were easy to find. In other cases, they weren’t,” said Julia Richman, chairperson of COB. “There’s no good system for identifying all of the terms if it is not captured centrally or in a database of any kind.”

She said it’s unclear who is responsible for ensuring public agencies are held accountable and comply with these terms. 

“In some cases, the attorneys representing the folks who are harmed you know have agreements with the city, but it’s not those attorneys’ role to ensure compliance,” Richman said. “It’s unclear whose responsibility it is to track and ensure the work is being done.”

The report said if the city published the terms and showed when deliverables are met, it would contribute to both better operational outcomes and a greater degree of community trust in public safety institutions.

COB said it is hopeful progress can be made on this issue in 2024.

The Denver Department of Public Safety sent the following statement to 9NEWS Friday:

The Department of Public Safety meets regularly with the Citizen Oversight Board and always makes ourselves available to address their concerns. While the COB may hold opinions that the settlement agreements should have been negotiated differently, the department has complied with the terms that were agreed upon.  DOS is committed to transparency and is working on how it will publicly communicate any future non-monetary settlement terms and its compliance with such terms.

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Denver didn’t comply with some misconduct settlements, group says

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