A push is underway to overhaul Denver’s controversial police discipline system that uses past cases to decide punishment for officers, the Denver Post reports. The “comparative discipline” rule has survived at least six other reform attempts; former Mayor Wellington Webb counted his inability to change the rule as one of his top regrets. Key city and police union officials say they believe the city is well on the way to adopting a new discipline system that will set up specific punishment guidelines for specific violations.
Emotions over comparative discipline have heightened since two controversial fatal shootings by police since July 2003. A 30-member committee of city officials, neighborhood leaders, and police is developing the system, which would be based on a four- or five-level matrix of punishments. The first matrix would be for low-level offenses such as tardiness and result in written reprimands. Higher-level offenses would fall in a matrix category that could result in termination. Currently, only a handful of guidelines exist. The result is an arbitrary process that binds disciplinary decisions to past rulings made by managers who may have been operating in a more lenient environment, said Al LaCabe, Denver’s manager of safety.