Denver Civil Service Commission "perplexed" by Manager of Safety's criticisms
Last week, on the eve of his one-year anniversary as Denver's Manager of Safety, Alex Martinez told us that one of the next big goals for his office is pushing the Civil Service Commission to implement serious reforms -- and he said he's not entirely confident about how things will go. Commission head Earl Peterson says he's perplexed by the criticisms, especially because he'd just had a productive meeting with Martinez.
As the city's Manager of Safety, a position granted civilian authority over Denver police, fire and sheriff departments, Martinez has frequently been critical of the Civil Service Commission, which is responsible for administering testing processes for positions in those departments and also oversees hearing disciplinary appeals.
The problem, according to Martinez -- who also has the support of Mayor Michael Hancock and the City Attorney's office -- is that the Civil Service Commission has been essentially conducting full-fledged trials at the hearing-officer level -- and he believes the group is not equipped to do so. The commission, he said, has been addressing complex legal questions and often producing its own independent findings that ignore the lengthy investigations by the police department and the Manager of Safety's office. This results in inconsistencies and, on occasion, very wrong decisions, Martinez believes.
Alex Martinez talking to reporters.
All of this ties back to longstanding concerns about police brutality cases in Denver. Martinez said reforming the Civil Service Commission's process is key to restoring the reputation of city law enforcement on the whole.
Which is why, Martinez told us, he's worried that the Civil Service Commission may not make the substantive changes he thinks are necessary. He feels DCSC will agree to some reforms, but is not sure it will go far enough.
Asked for response to these concerns last week, commission executive director Earl Peterson said he is surprised to hear that Martinez expressed any lack of confidence. When we reached him, he had just returned from a lengthy sit-down with Martinez that he saw as generally very positive.
"I'm perplexed, because we had a meeting today," he said. "Quite frankly, I was extremely pleased by the results of the meeting."
Peterson added, "He may have gone in with some reservations, but I hope he came out with a better feeling [about reform goals]."
The DCSC and Martinez are not going to agree on everything, he said -- but in his view, the two entities have visions for reform that are generally aligned.
Officials with the Manager of Safety's office offered no additional comments beyond our first interview.
Continue for more from our interview with the Civil Service Commission's Earl Peterson.