By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)– With a decision on Denver’s next police chief expected soon, CBS4 has learned a 17-member search committee ranked the five finalists after interviewing each of them. The committee told Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office that District One Police Commander Paul Pazen finished first, in their informal voting.

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The information comes from three people with knowledge of the search committee’s process and vote. All three sources declined to be named, saying they were not officially authorized to reveal what had occurred behind closed doors.

Cmdr. Paul Pazen (credit:

The search committee’s recommendation to the Mayor is just that: a non-binding recommendation. The ultimate decision will be up to Hancock, who is expected to reveal his choice for Denver Police Chief as early as the end of this week. Hancock also interviewed the finalists earlier this week.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, left, and Denver Police Chief Robert White (credit: Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Five current Denver police officers are in the running to replace outgoing Chief Robert White, who announced he was retiring. The search committee, made up of city council members, citizens, police officers, attorneys and other officials, interviewed Commander Michael Calo, Commander Joseph Montoya, Commander Paul Pazen, Deputy Chief David Quinones and Commander Ronald Saunier.

Those interviews took place earlier this month at Cableland, a mansion that was donated to the City of Denver in the Hilltop neighborhood.

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(credit: CBS4)

One member of the committee told CBS4 there were sharp disagreements between panel members about which candidate was most qualified to be Chief. But when a vote was taken, Pazen finished first and Quinones was second. Other sources confirmed that account and the way the voting shook out.

Pazen has been with the Denver Police Department since 1995. He previously served with the United States Marine Corps. Pazen has been Commander of District One in northwest Denver since 2012. He is known as having deep connections to community groups and civic leaders.

Earlier this month, a DPD internal affairs investigation cleared Pazen and four other officers of any wrongdoing in connection with police reports that were downgraded to ”letters to detective” which meant they would not count as official crimes.

“I want to be perfectly clear I have never asked… any of my investigative sergeants to ever change a report to a letter to a detective, never,” said Pazen.

Ultimately, 699 cases that had been downgraded in three districts were reclassified as crimes.

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CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.