DENVER — Today, the Office of the Independent Monitor (“OIM”) released its 2016 Semiannual Report. The OIM is charged with monitoring the disciplinary systems in the Denver Police and Denver Sheriff Departments (“DPD” and “DSD,” respectively), making policy recommendations to those departments, and conducting outreach to communities throughout Denver. The OIM is led by Independent Monitor Nicholas E. Mitchell, and advised by a seven-member Citizen Oversight Board.
The 2016 Semiannual Report provides an overview of the complaints received, closed and monitored by the OIM during the first half of 2016. The report also contains information on internal affairs investigations, disciplinary findings, and critical incidents in both departments. Finally, the report highlights the early results of the OIM’s Bridging the Gap: Kids and Cops program (“Youth Outreach Project” or “YOP”), which was developed in 2014 and piloted in 2015 to proactively improve relationships between youth and law enforcement in Denver. In cooperation with numerous community organizations and the DPD, the YOP was developed based on research on best practices in juvenile justice. Through focused education sessions and youth/officer forums facilitated by trained community members, the program educates officers on key aspects of adolescent development and de-escalation techniques for interactions with youth, and educates youth on their rights and responsibilities when in contact with law enforcement. The program then facilitates discussions between the two groups on ways to improve their future interactions.
As of August 2016, 312 youth and 35 DPD officers have participated in 10 YOP forums, and 115 DPD officers have been trained on adolescent brain development and de-escalation techniques. The response to the program thus far has been extraordinarily positive. More than 90% of surveyed officers who received YOP training felt that it better equipped them to interact with Denver’s youth. In addition, four out of five surveyed youth forum participants reported having greater trust in DPD officers after participating in a YOP forum. “I commend the hard work of the community, the OIM, and the DPD, who have collaborated to make this program a success. Encounters between youth and law enforcement are critical entry points into the juvenile justice system. By facilitating better communication and understanding between kids and cops, I hope that the YOP will continue to improve these interactions and keep our kids out of the system,” said Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell.
In 2017, the OIM will expand the Bridging the Gap program to train additional officers and community facilitators, and reach an additional 500 youth in neighborhoods throughout Denver. The full report can be found at www.denvergov.org/OIM.
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