Denver next week will start a lengthy revamp of guidelines for disciplining police officers, continuing a debate about a rule that restricts penalties, the Denver Post reports. The city’s decades-old “comparative discipline” rule -which says that an officer’s punishment cannot be more or less severe than others received in similar circumstances – will be a key focus of a committee formed to study and propose reforms. The panel will consider procedures for disciplining police for infractions ranging from misuse of force to lesser issues. The current disciplinary process takes too long, is inconsistent, and lacks written guidelines in some cases, said Al LaCabe, Denver’s manager of safety overseeing police and firefighters.
“What we’re saying is, we have to take a look at this system,” LaCabe said. “I don’t know if it’s going to require changing the charter or doing away with comparative discipline. What I do know is that comparative discipline as we practice it needs to be addressed.” Even some members of Denver’s 1,400-officer police force say the rule needs to be tweaked. One City Council member, who earlier this year proclaimed the need for an overhaul, now says that comparative discipline should not be eliminated because it has beneficial aspects. “By and large, I support comparative discipline when it’s applied correctly, which means it’s not used as an excuse to protect someone who has done wrong, but it is used to promote equity in treatment,” Councilman Michael Hancock said.