A new procedure to filter out minor misconduct complaints about Denver police officers should allow internal investigators to focus on more serious infractions, says the Denver Post in an editorial. The paper calls the process “reminiscent of doctors ‘triaging’ casualties at a disaster to get the critically injured onto operating tables quickly and redirect those with minor injuries. The change is the most recent in a series instituted since Mayor John Hickenlooper took office in July 2003 shortly after the fatal police shooting of mentally disabled teenager Paul Childs. The city now has an independent police monitor and a citizen oversight board to improve police discipline and restore citizens’ trust in the police.
Previously, the Police Department’s internal affairs bureau was required to investigate all complaints of officer wrongdoing. This had the effect of overloading the unit and delaying conclusion of investigations for long periods, says Richard Rosenthal, the city’s new independent police monitor. In the private sector, if “Nordstrom’s gets a complaint, they don’t interview every customer and impose discipline a year and half later,” Rosenthal said. In addition to Portland, the Los Anegles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff and the Seattle police have since adopted similar procedures.