Denver Police Department finishes major reorganization, with many demoted
Denver Police Chief Robert White's controversial reorganization of the department is now in effect, and top officials say the major restructuring will create a stronger agency -- even if many officers were forced to face demotions. In an effort to reduce "stagnation," White opened up positions, so that many officers had to reapply for their jobs. And at the end of the process, close to one hundred cops stepped down to lower positions.
White, who was named chief last December, has said that he understands the difficulty of the process, but that it will maximize efficiency and ensure that the department is making the most of its talent by rewarding good work.
"Some officers had been in positions for twenty years and had become somewhat complacent," says Lieutenant Matt Murray, chief of staff to White, explaining that a freeze on hiring for the past several years contributed to the lack of change in the department. "He determined this was the only fair way to do this."
Sam Levin Police Chief Robert White at a peace march over the summer.
What White did was open up the detective, corporal and technician positions so that anyone interested could have a shot. "He opened them all up for everybody to apply, including people who had the positions," Murray says.
Many began in their new positions on November 4, and data provided by Murray shows that many who applied for their own jobs didn't end up keeping them.
At the detective-level, 41 officers were not retained in the same spots. Of current technicians, 35 were not retained. And at the corporal level, 15 were not retained. That comes out to a total of 91 officers who are now back on patrol.
Additional, 83.6 percent of those who applied at the detective level got positions, while 69 percent of the technician applicants were appointed and 74.6 percent of corporal applicants were appointed.
The process was tough, Murray says: "Change is stress and most people don't like change, and police officers are no different."
In a recent interview, Manager of Safety Alex Martinez, who has civilian authority over the Denver police, fire and sheriff departments, said that the DPD restructuring was an important reform effort in the city -- but that it was incredibly difficult for many officers.
"I'm absolutely happy with [White] and the fact that he took the department through that process," Martinez told us. "There is no question that a lot of people were upset by that. You have to sort of sit back and imagine that...everybody's job is open and people are applying for their own jobs, and you get to apply for your boss's job."
He added, "It's a lot of trauma. Huge attempt to get it done right -- to end any sort of impressions that it's about favoritism and to really do it on a basis that is as objective as possible."
The best way to handle the inevitable backlash? Strong communication. "It's about listening and it's about talking and it's about giving people the opportunity to go through the individual process of the usual pattern of denial and bargaining and eventually acceptance," Martinez said. "It's about communicating what an opportunity this is for the whole department."
Continue for more from Murray and Martinez on the benefits of the restructuring.