When vandals threw paint on a memorial for fallen Denver police officers, their actions and Chief Robert White’s reaction brought to a head long-simmering discontent in the department, reports the Denver Post. White ordered his officers to stand down as the memorial was desecrated, and that order led Nick Rogers, the head of the Police Protective Association, to call for White’s resignation. It was a dramatic public disagreement between the chief and his troops, only the latest in a string of disputes that has marked his three-year tenure. Disgruntlement in the ranks “is a lot less about the memorial than it is about change,” said Commandeer Matt Murray, the department’s chief of staff. “The chief has been a fast-paced, aggressive change agent, and he is not done.”
Protests in Denver and elsewhere were fueled by riots that broke out in Ferguson, Mo., after police killed an unarmed black man. Policing experts suggest that the events have left officers across the U.S. feeling under siege by critics and unsupported by their bosses. In Denver, White has shaken things up by requiring detectives and others to reapply for their jobs, demoting some and promoting others, and creating a “team concept,” in which officers work in teams with their supervisors. Officers say it delays response times and puts officers in harm’s way. the protective association accused White of jeopardizing officers’ safety when he barred them from wearing riot gear during protests. Events in Ferguson have prompted a national discussion of ways in which police can de-escalate dangerous situations, said a recent Police Executive Research Forum report on issues facing police chiefs.