DENVER (CBS4) – Robert White took the oath as Denver’s new police chief Monday morning, taking the helm of a department hit hard by scandal in recent years.
Chief White came to Denver from Louisville, Ky. He told CBS4 on Monday he’s aware there’s much work to be done as the chief.
White has said he intends to work on the department’s image in the community. He said he wants to show officers they are valued but demand that they respect the people in the communities where they work.
White sat down with CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd and told her he’s both excited and nervous.
It was a packed house for the swearing in with officers, the district attorney, city council members and outgoing Chief Gerry Whitman all in attendance. Whitman received a standing ovation at the ceremony.
Mayor Michael Hancock selected White to replace Whitman. Hancock said Whitman made Denver a better and safer place, but it’s a new era with new challenges. He called White a “change agent” who will restore public trust.
Hancock said White established a reputation for being able to turn around departments with low morale and challenging relationships with the community. He’s known to be visible in the community and to hold his officers responsible for their actions.
“I know a great majority of them do the right thing every single day. There’s this small number of them that’s been a discredit to their brothers and sisters in the department and to this community. I’m going to aggressively deal with that,” White said.
White fired 30 officers in his 9 years in Louisville. He said that gave him a high approval rating in the community.
White told Boyd it’s important for officers to understand that it’s not his department, or theirs, but the community’s. He said the community deserves input on decisions that impact their lives.
“I also need to, internally, ensure them that my concern, number one, is that they get the equipment and the tools to do the job effectively and they do it the right way; and that they go home to their families each and every day; and that I care about them,” White said.
“And when something controversial happens, and they’re right, they’re doing it for the right reason, that I have the courage to stand up and say that. But also, make sure they understand that when something controversial happens and is wrong, I have the responsibility and the courage to acknowledge that also. I will tell you that most individuals respect that.”
White told Boyd respect is what matters, not popularity.
White also has a reputation for being able to clean up a department’s image — excessive force cases over the years with Denver’s police department have repeatedly damaged that image.
White becomes Denver’s first black police chief and the first candidate to be hired from outside the department since the 1960s.
In his interview with Boyd, White talked about getting raised by a single mother who taught him the value of hard work. But he also knows how to relax as well.
“I’m an avid bowler,” White said.
White said he’s always wanted to be a police officer, but once toyed with becoming a teacher.
White said that while he might not always be popular, what’s important is that he’s respected.