How Robert White, Denver’s First Black Chief, Has Tried to Change Policing


Denver Police Chief Robert White has been holding closed-door meetings lately with unlikely attendees: some of the city’s hardened criminals who hear a straightforward message: Stop the violence now, or face swift and steep punishment the next time you offend, the Denver Post says. “You’re more likely to be the victim of a crime because of your association,” White said, explaining what he and other officials tell the people gathered. But there’s a way out, he tells them. They can get help rehabilitating. As long as they don’t reoffend.

The ambitious program is a new approach to fighting gang violence in Denver. “We’re adjusting it as we go along,” White said of the program, similar to an approach tried in other cities where he has worked. He’s forging ahead because, he said, results take time. It is a familiar mantra for White, who, sworn in as the city’s top cop one year ago, has reached out to communities roiled by alleged police brutality, helped foster changes in the way officers are disciplined, and initiated a shake-up in the ranks that has sparked resentment among some officers. White, 60, is Denver’s first black police chief, hired by Mayor Michael Hancock after a campaign in which he promised to change a department tarnished by rough arrests caught on video, and other divisive incidents. White has flattened the command staff and ordered commanders, detectives, technician,s and corporals to reapply for their positions, a process that has meant demotions and promotions. He has begun hiring civilians to assume desk jobs held by police to get more cops on patrol.

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