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Dezzutti: On Paper, New Chief A Good Fit

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Denver Police Chief Robert White (credit: CBS)

Denver Police Chief Robert White (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

With a variety of issues within the Denver Police Department making headlines throughout the 2011 Mayoral campaign, the call for the new mayor to replace Chief Gerry Whitman started early.

So once Michael Hancock was elected, who he was going to select as the next Chief of the Denver Police Department was the single most anticipated appointment he was set to make. This isn’t meant to take anything away from the new head of Parks and Rec, but let’s face it, most citizens really only care about one person the Mayor hires, and that is the Chief of Police.

In hiring Robert White as the new police chief in Denver, away from Louisville Kentucky, Hancock has made a couple of political points clear.

One, Hancock is not afraid to let rank and file officers know that he had no interest in one of their own. Even though current officer Tracie Keesee was rumored to be in the running, Hancock never announced any finalists for the position.

STORY: New Denver Chief Wants Transparency, More Community Involvement

In fact, Hancock seemed to brace the DPD for an outsider to take charge fairly early on, saying many times that there would be a national search. If Hancock ever meant to consider someone from the inside, he would have stressed that even though a national search was to be held, that local candidates would be considered.

It was clear from the beginning that Hancock felt that if a new culture was needed in DPD, that it couldn’t be fostered by someone who was already part of that culture.

That may seem like basic common sense, but it carries a deeper meaning for the officers in the DPD. The statement that Hancock is making with the White appointment is that the current culture is not only a problem, but it is so deep that one of their own can’t be trusted to fix it. It’s also an indictment of the inability of the higher echelon of officers in the DPD.

Secondly, this appointment of White, known for his strong discipline, helps Hancock get support from the community and it should also take some of the heat away from his Manager of Safety, Alex Martinez. Too often in the past few years, the Police Chief and Manager of Safety in Denver were not able to necessarily work together, especially in the area of discipline.

With a new chief that has no ties to the current officers, the Manager of Safety will not be forced to be the only one involved in disciplinary action. Ideally, this situation will allow Hancock’s Manager of Safety establish a more diplomatic role with the rank and file officers and give them the support they need from city government.

Of course, as with all new hires, we will have to wait and see if this is indeed the great fit it seems to be on paper. Even though that will take time to figure that out, what won’t take too long to realize is the political value of this pick for Hancock. He’s selected someone the community likes, comes with a sense of discipline and has no allegiance to any current officers.

It may take folks in the department some time to get adjusted and get their collective nose back into joint, but Hancock can give them the time they need to trust incoming Chief White.

Time to earn the community’s trust was quickly running out. This decision helped Hancock earn it back in the nick of time.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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