Denver Question 2B: What you need to know about the Office of the Independent Monitor

Denver Justice Project co-founder Alex Landau speaks at a protest outside the City and County Building before a City Council meeting discussing the status of the Office of the Independent Monitor. Aug. 15, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)protest; denver city council; government; city and county building; denver justice project; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Denver Justice Project co-founder Alex Landau speaks at a protest outside the City and County Building before a City Council meeting discussing the status of the Office of the Independent Monitor. Aug. 15, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) protest; denver city council; government; city and county building; denver justice project; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Denver Justice Project co-founder Alex Landau speaks at a protest outside the City and County Building before a City Council meeting discussing the status of the Office of the Independent Monitor. Aug. 15, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Office of the Independent Monitor was created by a city ordinance in 2005 to improve civilian oversight of the Department of Safety. While its legal authority is limited, the office, currently held by Nicholas Mitchell, provides an independent voice on policy and practice in the Denver Police Department and the Denver Sheriff’s Department.

The independent monitor has found fault with police practices and recommended discipline and policy changes even when District Attorney Mitch Morrissey determined a police shooting was legally justified. The office also worked with the sheriff’s department to implement major reforms.

Question 2B would enshrine the office in the equivalent of Denver’s constitution so that a future City Council or mayor couldn’t get rid of it.

Here’s the language you’ll see on your ballot:

Shall the Charter of the City and County of Denver be amended concerning the office of independent monitor and the citizen oversight board, as previously created by ordinance, for the purposes of monitoring investigations of uniformed personnel in the Denver Department of Safety, in order to formalize the existence of the monitor and the board in the charter, and to adopt in the charter the basic powers and duties of the monitor and the board?

What does that mean?

This charter amendment doesn’t change the powers or resources available to the independent monitor. It places the office in the city charter so that it would require another vote of the people to disband the office. A future Denver City Council couldn’t simply decide it doesn’t need or want the monitor’s services. This amendment also places the monitor in an equivalent position to the police chief and other department heads whose roles are described in charter.

Who supports it?

Police accountability activists, most prominently the Denver Justice Project, have pushed for this change, which was also recommended by independent consultants who looked at Denver’s police practices. Councilman Paul Lopez carried this amendment in exchange for activists backing off plans for an initiated amendment that would have expanded the powers of the monitor. It was referred unanimously by the Denver City Council.

Who opposes it?

The police union expressed some concerns about the measure early in the year, but the union did not take a formal position or ask the City Council not to place it on the ballot.

 

 

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.