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Excessive force complaints far fewer than commendations, says Denver Police spokesman

Thumbnail image for michael deherrera beating.JPG
DeHerrera.
Even though Denver's crime rate is going down, excessive force against the Denver Police Department cause continue to stir debate, as in the cases of Alexander Landau and Michael DeHerrera.

In an effort to counter the impression of a department out of control, the DPD has issued a fact sheet on view below showing that throughout 2010, officer commendations far exceeded complaints about cops.

According to DPD spokesman Lieutenant Matt Murray, the fact sheet represents an effort to reconcile data between the department and the Office of the Independent Monitor, headed by Richard Rosenthal.

"If Richard walked into a city council hearing tomorrow and reported on the numbers he has in his office, and then we walked in two hours later, the numbers might look different," Murray notes.

Thumbnail image for richard rosenthal from office of the independent monitor-thumb-240x240.jpg
Richard Rosenthal.
Why? The distinction between when an incident happened and when a complaint was filed accounts for some discrepancies -- but other factors can throw things off, too. "Let's say six officers go on a call, and three get complaints against them for four different things -- so is that twelve complaints or four complaints or one complaint?" Murray asks. "So that's one reason we did this. We want to provide the public and city council with accurate numbers that we all agree on and that reflect what's occurring, and to do that, we needed to have all the same numbers at the same time."

Of course, there's a public relations aspect to the fact sheet as well. According to the statistics, the Denver Police Department responded to over 465,000 calls for service in 2010, "and less than two-thirds of 1 percent wound up in complaints," Murray says. "And that's not even necessarily sustained complaints. That's just someone coming in and making an accusation."

For instance, fact-sheet graphics document 39 complaints in December, with 33 of those coming from citizens, adding up to a total of seventy allegations; as noted in the fine print, some complaints include multiple allegations. Of those 39 complaints, investigations were declined in 21 of them -- just over half because no misconduct was found, with mediation the most common alternate outcome.

gerry whitman from channel 4.jpg
Chief Gerald Whitman.
Moreover, Murray says, "the ratio of commendations to contacts is twice as high as complaints to contacts. In 2010, the ratio of commendations to calls for service was one in 431 and complaints was one in 930."

Of course, a sizable number of those commendations were generated by the department itself -- but the fact sheet also lists citizen letters of appreciation, hotline compliments and the like.

Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman has asked for these fact sheets to be generated on a monthly basis, Murray points out, and while the information is public, there's no plan in place to send them to the media on a regular basis -- which would seem to defeat part of the purpose. But Whitman wants to keep seeing them because, Murray says, "if we see a spike or some trend, we want to deal with it immediately."

Here's the fact sheet for 2010, with particular focus on December:

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Police misconduct: Denver ranks number one in terms of excessive force complaints."


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13 comments
annonymous
annonymous

We don't need the Police ... or the government....

AncientMedicine
AncientMedicine

"a sizable number of those commendations were generated by the department itself" -- How many?

C'mon, chief, you're just digging yourself in deeper by trying to justify, rationalize and use statistical sleight of hand to distort the facts. Many of your officers beat up innocent citizens. This is a fact.

If DPD has more excessive force complaints than any other major city law enforcement, all the commendations might just embolden the cops to beat more people up.

The first rule of successful P.R. campaigns is honesty, and hiding or concealing the truth just hurts the liar more in the long run...If you study actual P.R. campaigns, the most successful ones -- even after huge tragedies owith a lot of human error -- are the ones that are honest and disclose the truth.

We like integrity and we are a society pretty quick to forgive, especially when the truth is acknowledged and the liar seems genuine about fixing their mistakes.

Guest
Guest

late to post but.....this data is skewed. probably the same biased kind of crap the cdphe churns out (remember the folks that couldn't even compute a simple average on the mmj patient ages and reported it incorrectly for some time?). if you look at the year to date numbers you'll clearly see the number of complaints out number the commendations....so maybe all the complaints aren't "excessive force" but that's still pretty bad. "DPD gets far more complaints than commendations in 2010!" should have been the headline

math on your own quotes.... "Denver Police Department responded to over 465,000 calls for service in 2010, "and less than two-thirds of 1 percent wound up in complaints" 2/3 of 1 percent is 0.667 percent .... let's call it 0.65 percent ... that's 3,022 complaints in 2010...i'd call that significant.

Robert
Robert

The more I think about this story, the madder I become. Who is this clown Murray? What an unbelievably inept response on the part of DPD's administration! This press release alone is sufficient proof of Whitman's incompetence and bad faith that he should be fired forthwith.

anonymous
anonymous

If they only had 2700 (2/3rds of 1% of 465000 calls) complaints in that time period isn't that the same as if they'd taken 1 entire day a year and just beat the shit out of everyone who called?

This seems excessive.

Robert
Robert

Michael, that is a most unfortunate contrast you pose -- a lowered crime rate versus complaints of police brutality? The issues seem utterly unrelated to me. DPD obviously is insinuating that there is some inverse relationship between commendations and complaints; again, there is no basis or purpose served in comparing these (artificial) numbers. The DPD's IAB has deliberately misdirected complainants and otherwise suppressed complaints, and if the process of commendation is anything like as flawed as the investigation and punishment of gross misconduct, we can have no confidence in any numbers relating to it either. Lt. Murray just seeks to muddy the waters; add him to the list of administrators who should be fired immediately.

Denver deserves to have confidence in its police and Sheriff's deputies, and the only way to accomplish that is to institute independent investigation of civilian complaints against police officers (which constitute a minority of all complaints; officers make more complaints against each other than civilians do).

Druid0621
Druid0621

Nice try, chief. Just ONE excessive force complaint should offset all of the commendations. There is no excuse for that behavior. Just like there is no excuse for DPD becoming a revenue center, bringing bogus charges to extort bail money.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

AncientMedicine, the fact sheet at the bottom of the post includes graphics that show how the department came up with its commendation total. Hope that helps. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Guest
Guest

3,022 complaints.... almost as many as all the violent crimes in denver committed in 2009 combined......

Denver - Colorado ... In 2009, this city reported 3,493 violent crimes and 20,879 property crimes. Violent crime is composed of four offenses: Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force. Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.

BY THE NUMBERSViolent Crimes - 3,493

Violent crimes include: Murder 39, Forcible Rape 343, Robbery 946, Aggravated Assault 2,165http://www.denverpost.com/fbic...

annonymous
annonymous

Per the fact sheet, they only had 701 total complaints from all sources in 2010. I'm not sure where you got the 2700 figure. 701 is .001% of 465000 calls for service. This indicates that a small percentage of calls, and contacts result in complaints. Apparently you think 0 complaints are the only acceptable amount of complaints. That would be impossible to acheive because people complain about everything you can think of and then some. Not all complaints are valid, or reasonable or even rational. Your post seems irrational.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Robert, interesting observations based on the juxtaposition of posts. Thanks for sharing them.

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