Denver Police Department
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Denver Police Department
Denver Police Department
CO - Denver Police.jpg
Chest patch, No shoulder patches are worn.
CO - Denver Police Badge.png
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionDenver, Colorado, United States
Denver County Colorado Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Denver Highlighted 0820000.svg
Map of Denver Police Department's jurisdiction.
Size154.9 square miles (401 km2)
Population600,158 (2010) within the city & county of Denver. 2,552,195 in the metro area.
General nature
Sworn members1,518
Unsworn members319
Agency executives
Parent agencyDenver Department of Public Safety
Patrol carsFord Crown Victoria, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Impala, GMC Yukon/Chevrolet Tahoe, Dodge Durango, Awaiting Ford Utility Interceptor and Pursuit Interceptor to replace aging Crown Victoria
Air units1 - 1998 Bell 407
K-9 UnitsBelgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd

The Denver Police Department (DPD) is the full service police department jointly for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, which provides police services to the entire county, including Denver International Airport, and may provide contractual security police service to special districts within the county. The police department is within the Denver Department of Public Safety, which also includes the Denver Sheriff Department and Denver Fire Department.

The current police chief is Paul M. Pazen, who was appointed chief of police on July 9, 2018.[1]

The Patrol Division is made up of 6 patrol districts. Within each patrol district, there are up to 3 different sectors. Each sector is made up of numerous precincts. Each precinct has one patrol car with 1-2 officers assigned it. Officers assigned to patrol work 4-10 hour shifts.

Recruits begin the DPD Academy as a recruit officer. Upon graduation, officers are classified as "police officer 4th class." After the completion of 3 years of service, officers are classified as "police officer 1st class."

Specialized units

The Denver Police administration building (left) in downtown Denver. The building on the right is the former pretrial detention facility.
  • Denver Police Department Mounted Patrol
  • S.W.A.T. Special Weapons And Tactics
The SWAT Team deals with hostage negotiation, drug busts and counter-terrorism
METRO SWAT operates 2 LENCO Bear Cats and a new Freightliner Command Post
  • AIR SUPPORT UNIT (1) Bell 407 AIR1 over Denver.

  • HALO (High Activity Location Observation) Program
The HALO Program is a collaborative effort between Denver Police, community groups and local businesses. Established in 2006, the program utilizes networked video cameras through surveillance to deter crime and enhance public safety through faster response to incidents. Monitored locations include high-traffic intersections, areas where drug activity and street crime are prevalent, and public facilities and parks. Cameras are also used to protect tourist sites, healthcare facilities and areas with homeland security importance. Mobile cameras are used to help manage crime hotspots. Police point to successes, including HALO's help in controlling major drug and street crime issues on notorious East Colfax Avenue.[2]

Denver Police Department decorations


  • Denver Police Medal of Honor
  • Denver Police Medal of Valor
  • Denver Police Distinguished Service Cross
  • Denver Police Purple Heart
  • Denver Police Life Saving Medal
  • Denver Police Star Award
  • Denver Police Merit Award
  • Denver Police Leadership Award
  • Denver Police Community Service Award
  • Denver Police Campaign Medal
  • Physical Fitness Award
  • Chief's Unit Citation
  • Official Commendations
  • Citizens Appreciate Police
  • District TOP COP Award

Rank Structure and Insignia

Title Insignia
Chief of Police
4 Gold Stars.svg
Deputy Chief Appointed by the Chief of Police from Commander and Captain ranks.
3 Gold Stars.svg
Commander Appointed by the Chief of Police from Lieutenant and Captain ranks.
1 Gold Star.svg
Captain Promotion based on panel interview/departmental assessment.
Captain insignia gold.svg
Lieutenant Promotion based on a written examination and panel interview/departmental assessment.
US-O1 insignia.svg
Sergeant Promotion based on a written examination and panel interview/departmental assessment.
NYPD Sergeant Stripes.svg
Corporal At least one year service as a technician before eligibility for promotion to corporal (after an additional written examination and interview).
Corporal 2.png
Technician At least three years service as a police officer before eligibility for promotion to Technician (after an additional written examination and interview).
Police Officer 4th–1st Class


Breakdown of the makeup of the rank and file of DPD as of the 2007 annual report:[3]

  • Male: 89%
  • Female: 11%
  • White: 68%
  • Hispanic: 20%
  • African American/Black: 9%
  • Asian: 2%
  • Native American: 1%

Controversies and criticisms

Denver Police have met with controversy and protest over several high-profile incidents that have led them to include citizens in their Disciplinary Review Board and Use of Force Review Board.[4] During this period, 86 people were shot by Denver police officers, resulting in 40 deaths.[5] In most of the 86 shootings, "the individual was clearly pointing a gun at officers." A 2015 review of past court cases observed that Denver juries almost always acquit police officers charged with excessive force. "They realize police have to make split-second decisions to protect their own safety, and can make an honest mistake. If an officer's version is even remotely plausible, he'll probably get the benefit of the doubt."[6]


In 1953 the Denver Police Department began to gather information on individuals and groups regarding activities that might pose a threat to public safety. The files came to be known as the Spy Files during the publicity surrounding an American Civil Liberties Union class action lawsuit in 2002. According to the lawsuit, as many as 3,200 individuals and 208 organizations had been targeted for intelligence gathering operations. These groups and individuals included not only criminal elements but also peace activists and education and human rights organizations. The lawsuit was settled in 2003 with the city revising its policies governing the gathering of this type of information. Mayor John Hickenlooper ordered the records be archived at the Denver Public Library and preserved for study. Part of the archive is currently available to the public and part is a restricted collection, accessible only by those individuals and organizations specifically named in the documents. The complete collection will open to the public in the year 2055.[7][8]


In 1960, the largest police corruption scandal in the U.S. to date began to unfold. More than 50 area law-enforcement personnel - almost entirely Denver Police Officers were caught in a burglary ring. Cops had stolen over a quarter of a million dollars from businesses they were supposed to be protecting on their beats over a ten-year period. Police cars would close down a few blocks of a major business avenue, such as University or Broadway, then burgle and steal the safes from the businesses along the closed down portion of the street. Alarms would be going off all up and down the street, they would take their loot, then respond to the alarms and take the reports. It all came to a crashing halt when an officer named Art Winstanley literally had a safe fall out of the back of his police cruiser. He testified against his fellow officers and by the end of 1961, 47 police officers had lost their badges.[9]


In 2008, newspapers reported on a 1979 video that showed Sergeant Arthur Hutchinson addressing a group of police recruits. He used the terms "ni**ers," "beaners," "greasers" and "homos" to describe them. He asked one woman in the class "Is the real reason you came on here is because you just wanted to have access to 1,400 guys to f*ck?"

Sergeant Hutchinson went on to serve as the chief of police in Eagle, Colorado for a year, and then as the chief in Black Hawk, Colorado from 1996 to 2006.[10]


In September, 1999 a Denver Police SWAT team performed a no-knock raid on the home of 45-year-old Mexican national, Ismael Mena, believing there to be drugs in the house. Police said that Mena pulled a gun on officers and opened fire, necessitating deadly force be used. Allegations of a police coverup of the shooting were never substantiated. Information from Mexican authorities indicated that Mena was a suspect in a homicide there. No drugs were found on the premise. Media and critics of the police department's handling of the situation have pointed out inconsistencies in officers' stories.[11] Joseph Bini, the officer who gave the address to the SWAT team, was charged with first-degree official misconduct, and sentenced to 12 months probation. The city of Denver later settled a lawsuit filed by Mena's family for $400,000. It was later determined that police targeted the wrong house having gotten the information from an unreliable informant who claimed to have purchased $20 of crack cocaine on the premises. [12]


In February 2006 Amy Shroff was attacked by her estranged husband as she tried to enter a Denver police station. She showed Officer Frank Spellman the restraining order that protected her from the man. Officer Spellman then arrested Shroff. On 28 June 2010, the Denver City Council agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a civil suit on the matter.[13]


In September 2009, Denver paid $225,000 to the family of Alberto Romero. Romero died after being beaten and repeatedly tasered by city police officers in 2007.[14][15]


On April 4, 2008, John Heaney was riding his bicycle past the stadium and allegedly ran a red light. He was stopped by Detective Micheal Cordova who was in plainclothes because he was working a sting operation against ticket scalpers. Cordova testified in court under oath that Heaney swung and punched at him several times, forcing Cordova to punch back. Cordova said Heaney "continued to throw wild punches at me, hitting me in the chest area several times forcing me to punch him in the face several times". When he was asked how Heaney's two front teeth were broken, Cordova responded, "I have not a clue." John Heaney was charged with assault on a police officer and faced a minimum 3-year sentence, before a video tape surfaced showing it was Detective Cordova who attacked Heaney, tackling him, punching him in the face several times, and finally smashing his teeth into the pavement; the district attorney's office then dropped all charges against Heaney. A jury acquitted Detective Cordova on the assault charges and no charges were filed for perjury. The video was found to be edited prior to airing on the news channel and being given to the court. The video showed only the middle of fight and not the entire event.[16]

On 18 April 2008 16-year-old Juan Vasquez ran from members of the Denver Police Department, an officer shouted for him "to stop or he would shoot him in the back." When Vasquez fell in the alley, one officer jumped on his back. Other officers began to punch and kick him as Vasquez "begged" them to stop. Two of the arresting officers testified that Officer Charles Porter began jumping up and down on the teen's back while he was handcuffed and lying face-down on the ground. Vasquez, who is 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, was hospitalized with a lacerated liver, a ruptured spleen, damage to both kidneys and bruised or fractured ribs. He spent three days in intensive care handcuffed to the bed. Porter was charged and acquitted of felony assault charges, he was the only witness at his defense and claimed the other officers who testified against him caused the injuries during the arrest and conspired to pin the blame on him. Vasquez filed a lawsuit for 1.3 million dollars, and the city settled for "just under $1,000,000".[17][18]

In 2008 Officer Eric Sellers and two unnamed Denver police officers attacked Jared Lunn. Lunn had tried to report that he had been assaulted earlier in the evening. In August 2010, Sellers was suspended for 45 days over the incident.[19] The case was later reopened, presenting the possibility of additional punishment.[20]


Denver officers and cruiser

In January, 2009, Alexander Landau was beaten by three Denver Police Officers and received a $795,000 settlement in 2011, one of the largest settlements in Denver history to resolve a police brutality case. The police officers involved in the case were Officers Kevin Devine, Ricky Nixon, Tiffany Middleton, and Corporal Randy Murr. Nixon and Middleton continue to serve with the department.[21][22][23] In September 2013, the department fired Officers Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine for lying during the investigation.[24] The two were later reinstated by the Denver Civil Service Commission.[25]

In April, 2009 Corporal Randy Murr and Officer Devin Sparks threw Michael DeHerrea to the ground during an arrest outside of a downtown nightclub. The two were fired for lying during the subsequent investigation but returned to their jobs as a result of a hearing by the Denver Civil Service Commission. In September 2012, the panel reversed itself and fired the two men again. The city paid $15,000 to settle the matter. Murr was the same officer involved in the Landau beating three months before.[26]

Sergeant Perry Speelman, and Officers Tab Davis and Jesse Campion stopped two men in 2009 and subjected them to a barrage of racial insults after they were illegally forced from their car. The judge in the case called the policemen's action "extreme, profane and racially motivated." In July 2012, the city council agreed to pay $60,000 to the two men beaten by three police officers.[27]


Press report show that in March 2010, Officer Hector Paez used threats of arrest to force himself on a woman. In December 2012, Officer Paez was found guilty of sexual assault, kidnapping and filing a false report.[28][29] In 2013, he was sentenced to eight years in prison.[30]

In May, 2010, the city agreed to settle an excessive force lawsuit paying Eric Winfield $40,000. Officers Glenn Martin, Antonio Milow, and Thomas Johnston beat Winfield when he was mistakenly identified as a person who had previously caused trouble at a nightclub.[31][32]

In June 2010, Denver police Officer Derrick Saunders was sentenced to 5 days in jail, fined $300, and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service after he had been arrested driving at 143 mph in a 55 mph zone. Press reports indicated that Saunders had a blood-alcohol level of .089 percent; the legal limit is .08 percent. In 2012, Saunders was returned to the police department by the city's civil service commission.[33]

On August 18, 2010, the Denver Post reported about another alleged beating by the Denver Police. On March 16, 2010, Mark Ashford was walking his two dogs near the streets of 20th and Little Raven when he saw a police officer pull over a driver who had run a stop sign. Ashford claiming that he saw the man stop at the stop sign approached the police car to volunteer information and to appear in court about the incident. Ashford claims that the officer "didn't like it at all" and asked Ashford his ID, which he provided. Afterwards, another Denver Police officer arrived on scene and Ashford, who claims he was nervous, began taking photos of the two officers on his cell phone. In the HALO surveillance video released by the city & county of Denver, a Denver Police officer appears to hand Ashford back his ID and a piece of paper. Afterwards, Ashford pulls out his cell phone to photograph the two officers. The two officers approach Ashford and one of the officers grabs Ashford's hand in an attempt to get Ashford's cell phone. Ashford grabs one officer by the throat. The other officer also tries to help restrain Ashford. In the ensuing struggle Ashford tries to spin away from the officers and is again thrust into the guardrail by the officers. Ashford's attorney, William Hart, claims that his client was arrested on suspicion of interference and resistance. After the incident, Ashford was taken to St. Andrew's Hospital where he was treated for a cut on his eye and a concussion. All charges have been dropped by the Denver City Attorney's office. The officers were cleared following an investigation by Denver Police and Independent Monitor, Richard Rsenthal. Rosenthal found the officers' actions were justified.[34] The city awarded Ashford $35,000, citing that they believed the officers used excessive force and criticized Rosenthal for ruling their actions justified. One officer retired after the incident and one remains on the job.

In August 2010, the city agreed to pay $20,000 to James Watkins to settle a civil lawsuit. In the suit, Watkins claimed Officers John Ruddy and Randy Penn slammed his face into the pavement repeatedly after hearing him say, "cops suck" to a friend.[35]


In April 2013, there was controversy surrounding the involvement of the Denver Police in a speech by President Obama in support of gun control. There were complaints by Denver Police officers that they were encouraged (or coerced) to participate in President Obama's rally, while they were forbidden from participating in a counter-rally by more than a dozen Colorado county sheriffs.[36][37]


On July 2, 2014, Ryan Ronquillo was killed after running over a Denver Police detective while trying to escape arrest in a stolen car.[38][39] Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey declared the shooting justified amid protests.[40][41]

On December 7, 2014, North Denver News published a story claiming Denver had the 2nd highest per-capita rate of death from law enforcement in the country during the period 1999-2012. This was the result of their independent research of Center for Disease Control data, showing Denver 2nd only to Baltimore.[42]


The Denver Police Union passed a vote of no confidence in Chief Robert White's leadership after multiple misconduct investigations yielded no corrective action.[43] During the investigations, Mayor Hancock revoked the Office of the Independent Monitor's ability to provide civilian oversight for these investigations. Mayor Hancock declared that the mayor's office would have sole responsibility for oversight of investigations involving Chief White despite the Independent Monitor's involvement in previous Chief of Police investigations.[44] Following these events, Chief White announced he would retire as soon as a replacement could be selected.[45]

See also

External links


  1. ^ Mayor Hancock names Paul Pazen, a district commander, as Denver's next police chief
  2. ^ DPD 2006 Annual Report Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Denver Police Department 2007 Annual Report Archived 2009-04-12 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "City Seeks Volunteers For Police Review Boards". City of Denver. 2007-03-20. Archived from the original on November 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  5. ^ Charles Porter, "Cop involved in Juan Vasquez stomping, fired by outgoing manager of safety," Westword, by Michael Roberts, June 30, 2010
  6. ^ Carroll, Vincent (January 3, 2015). "Why aren't cops prosecuted?". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ "ACLU of Colorado: Spy Files". American Civil Liberties Union. Archived from the original on November 20, 2009. Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ Berlet, Chip; Scher, Abby. "Political Profiling". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on November 12, 2008. Retrieved 2015.
  9. ^ Denver cop and robber reconciles his troubled past, by Kevin Simpson, 16 February 2010, the Denver Post
  10. ^ Seventies-era Denver Police video shows racist, homophobic and sexist training practices By Joe Tone, 22 August 2008, retrieved on 24 March 2014
  11. ^ Alan Prendergast (2000-02-24). "Unlawful Entry". Westword. Retrieved 2007.
  12. ^ Alan Prendergast (2000-02-24). "Unlawful Entry". Westword. Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ Top 5 Police Blunders: Amy Shroff Wins $175,000 For Wrongful Arrest, True Crime Report dot Com, by Denise Grollmus, 1 July 2010
  14. ^ "Death after Taser use shocks kin," by Mike McPhee, July 2007, Denver Post
  15. ^ Is There a Police Brutality Problem in Denver?, by David Packman, the Cato Institute, National Police Misconduct Reporting Project
  16. ^ Greg Prinkey (February 16, 2010). "UAffidavit: Police Brutality Case At Coors Field". 9News. Retrieved 2015.
  17. ^ Alan Gathright (May 15, 2008). "Teen sues over alleged beating by Denver cops". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved 2009.
  18. ^ Fox 31 News (2007-05-18). "Denver cop found not guilty of assaulting handcuffed teen". KDVR. Retrieved 2009.
  19. ^ Is There a Police Brutality Problem in Denver?, by David Packman, the Cato Institute, National Police Misconduct Reporting Project
  20. ^ Denver police's alleged brutality tops Top 5 Police Blunders list on, Denver Westword, by Michael Roberts August 27, 2010
  21. ^ Gurman, Sadie. "Denver police officers won't be charged in the 2009 Landau beating case," The Denver Post, 8 February 2013
  22. ^ Alex Landau frustrated by cop reinstatement, latest delay in bloody beating investigation, by Michael Roberts, Denver WestWorld, 27 February 2013
  23. ^ Alex Landau frustrated by cop reinstatement, latest delay in bloody beating investigation, by Michael Roberts, Denver WestWorld, 27 February 2013
  24. ^ Two Denver cops plan to appeal firing in Denver Diner beating case, by Sadie Gurman, Denver Post, 27 September 2013
  25. ^ Denver Diner case's $360K settlement exposes culture of police brutality, attorney says, by Michael Roberts, 24 September 2013, Denver WestWorld
  26. ^ 2 Officers Fired In Beating, Then Reinstated, Are Fired Again; Devin Sparks, Randy Murr Fired For Videotaped Beating Of Michael DeHerrea,, 4 September 2012
  27. ^ Tegan Hanlon, "Denver council OK's police settlement amount," Denver Post, 16 July 2012
  28. ^ Denver Police Officer Found Guilty Of Sexually Assaulting Woman, 18 December 2012
  29. ^ Denver police officer Hector Paez convicted of sex assault, kidnapping, 19 December 2012,
  30. ^ Former Denver cop Hector Paez gets 8 years for assault, kidnapping, the Denver Post, 1 March 2013
  31. ^ Is There a Police Brutality Problem in Denver?, by David Packman, the Cato Institute, National Police Misconduct Reporting Project
  32. ^ Eric Winfield: Artist beaten by Denver cops gets cash, no apology, Denver Westword, By Alan Prendergast, May 4, 2010
  33. ^ Derrick Saunders, Denver Police Officer, Could Be Reinstated After Driving Drunk At 143 Miles Per Hour, Huffington Post, Posted: 05/23/2012 6:16 pm Updated: 05/23/2012 6:27 pm
  34. ^ "Another alleged beating involving Denver police surfaces". Denver Post. Retrieved on Jan. 17, 2011
  35. ^ Is There a Police Brutality Problem in Denver?, by David Packman, the Cato Institute, National Police Misconduct Reporting Project
  36. ^ Parker, Ryan (3 April 2013). "Colorado sheriffs protest President Obama's Denver visit". Denver Post.
  37. ^ Sheriffs duel Obama over anti-gun laws. 7 News. 3 April 2013.
  38. ^ Denver police report
  39. ^ Roberts, Michael (3 July 2014). "Denver cops say man they killed at funeral home rammed cruisers, injured officer". Denver Westword.
  40. ^ Roberts, Michael (12 August 2014). "Ryan Ronquillo Shooting Deemed Justified, But Family Says Police Murdered Him". Denver Westword.
  41. ^ "Denver protestors march to State Capitol to mark police shootings". Denver Post. 30 August 2014.
  42. ^ "Denver has the second highest rate of death from Law Enforcement in Country". North Denver News. 7 December 2014.
  43. ^ Phillips, Noelle (2017). "Denver police union passes "no confidence" vote on Chief Robert White". Denver Post.
  44. ^ Phillips, Noelle (2018). "Denver's police watchdog no longer allowed to investigate Chief Robert White after mayor's office reverses past practices". Denver Post.
  45. ^ Phillips, Noelle (2018). "Denver Police Chief Robert White will retire and be replaced from within the department". Denver Post.

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