The Denver City Council plans to introduce an ordinance that would strip the mayor of his authority to appoint the independent monitor, giving the power instead to the Citizen Oversight Board.
The Office of the Independent Monitor oversees investigations into systemic law enforcement misconduct and complaints against officers. It was created in response to the killing of Paul Childs, a developmentally disabled teenager shot by a Denver police officer in 2004.
Councilwoman Jamie Torres presented the proposal to the council policy committee Thursday. The ordinance will be introduced to the safety committee for a formal vote on Aug. 4, followed by two full council votes on Aug. 9 and Aug. 16.
“If we call the Office of the Independent Monitor independent, they really do need to have independence from elected officials determining their status and their ability to do their job, which is a very difficult one,” Torres said.
The ordinance would give the Citizen Oversight Board — consisting of nine residents appointed by the mayor and council — the power to appoint the monitor. Currently, the board assesses the effectiveness of the monitor and makes recommendations on discipline, use of force and other policies.
The City Council would need to confirm appointments made by the Citizen Oversight Board, under the ordinance.
In addition to transferring appointment authority, the ordinance would give the monitor the ability to hire independent counsel, move the staff of the Office of the Independent Monitor to Career Services and allow the monitor to make up to two staff appointments.
“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Council President Stacie Gilmore sai during Thursday’s meeting. “I’m happy to support this all the way to getting this to the ballot and allowing the voters to make that change, hopefully.”
If the ordinance is passed by the City Council, it will be put on the November ballot for voter approval, which is required because it requires a change to the City Charter. The deadline for adding measures to the November ballot is Aug. 30.
The council has previously attempted to make similar changes to the Office of the Independent Monitor.
Almost a year ago, Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca filed for a charter change that would have made the monitor appointed by the City Council and moved the office’s staff to Career Services. That proposal was voted down by council in a 9-3 vote with one member abstaining.
CdeBaca said she supports the new proposal.
“This is almost the exact proposal I brought forward last year soon after the George Floyd protests, which was voted down because council members felt there had not been enough engagement and process, although it had been co-developed with deep input from the ACLU of Colorado, the Citizen Oversight Board, the Denver Justice Project and Colorado Freedom Fund, among others,” CdeBaca said. “I hope to see the full list of stakeholders engaged in this iteration of the bill."
The ordinance would also add a timeline for appointing the monitor, requiring the Citizen Oversight Board to identify a search committee within 60 days of a vacancy. The committee would pick three candidates to participate in a community process, one of whom the board must choose to nominate within 30 days of the community process.
The timeline requirement comes as Denver is without a monitor more than six months after the previous monitor, Nick Mitchell, resigned. The search for the new monitor has drawn significant criticism for being too slow.
The effort also comes two months after the Reimagine Policing and Public Safety task force submitted a report to the City Council providing 112 recommendations for how Denver’s policing should change. The recommendations included transferring appointment authority for the monitor from the mayor to the City Council and the Citizen Oversight Board, in line with the proposed ordinance. The report also suggested giving the monitor subpoena power and implementing a four-year term.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Mayor Michael Hancock’s office said they were still reviewing the proposal.