DENVER (CBS4) – CBS4 has learned that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and his staff are considering merging the troubled Denver Sheriff Department with the Denver Police Department and allowing current DPD Chief Robert White to oversee the combined agencies.
Three sources familiar with the process, but not authorized to speak publicly about it, told CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass that while the idea is in preliminary stages, and is just one of many options being examined, exploratory discussions have been underway for several weeks and it is receiving serious consideration at the mayoral level.
All three sources said Denver officials have been quietly reaching out to other cities which merged their public safety agencies to assess the practical challenges of such a move.
The potential move would be enormously complicated, but sources said the feeling within the Hancock administration is that legal and practical hurdles could be overcome and the idea — if embraced — could be implemented. One obstacle: police officers and sheriff’s deputies currently work under separate personnel systems. Police are governed by civil service rules while sheriff’s deputies fall under Denver’s career service authority.
Police officers and sheriff’s deputies also undergo different training. And if the Hancock administration chose to merge the departments, it might require changes to the city charter.
But the idea is apparently intriguing to an administration that has faced non-stop controversies within the sheriff’s department in recent months. Those dustups resulted in Sheriff Gary Wilson being forced to step down earlier this year. Since then the city put out a “request for proposal” seeking consultants to help recruit Denver’s next appointed sheriff.
Sheriff’s Division Chief Elias Diggins is currently serving as interim sheriff. The sheriff department has nearly 900 employees while the Denver Police Department has about 1,400 officers.
White, 62, was recruited to take over the Denver Police Department in 2011. He came to Denver from Louisville where he oversaw a merger like the one being discussed. In that case White helped guide the merging of the Louisville Police Department with the Jefferson County Police Department, creating the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Late Tuesday afternoon, through a spokesman, Chief White said, “It would be inappropriate to comment about anything in this process.”
Stephanie O’Malley, Executive Director of Denver’s Department of Safety, told CBS4, “This subject matter has been discussed. We are investigating all options as they relate to the Denver Sheriff Department … There’s no proposal in concrete and no conclusions if that’s the best move for Denver.”
O’Malley confirmed city officials have been contacting other jurisdictions around the country that have merged safety departments.
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