Denver Police Chief White has earned community’s trust

Denver Police Chief White has earned community’s trust

Now that two investigations of Police Chief Robert White have concluded, it’s time to refocus on the Denver Police Department’s positive momentum.

White’s transformational leadership has benefited the entire city.

In concluding that the chief’s actions do not warrant discipline, Mayor Michael Hancock said: “I truly believe that Denver has an honorable and dedicated police chief in Robert White. He values accountability, he prioritizes doing the right thing and he cares deeply about the police department and people of Denver.”

We at the Denver Police Foundation agree. White has earned a strong vote of confidence from our independent board, which is made up of community leaders committed to supporting the Denver Police Department to enhance public safety.

White is a change agent so it’s not surprising that he has ruffled some feathers since he arrived in Denver in 2011.

Department insiders who were comfortable with the status quo of past eras have not necessarily appreciated his vigorous efforts to make the department more accountable to the community.

But we’ve seen the positive impacts of his visionary thinking.

On the issue of use of force, White has proven that he puts the highest value on the preservation of life — both the lives of officers and the public they serve.

It was White’s idea to create awards, which debuted last year, to honor Denver police officers who, through good judgment and ingenuity, avoided using deadly force in potentially dangerous situations, all while keeping fellow officers and the broader community safe. Later this month, the Denver Police Foundation will join the chief in recognizing eight officers with this year’s Preservation of Life awards.

In each case, use of deadly force could have been justified by the officers who are being recognized, but they found a way to end a volatile situation without loss of life. This award has become an important symbol, demonstrating that the chief and the entire department he leads put a premium on preventing unnecessary use of force while keeping officers and the broader public safe.

White also supported our nonprofit’s purchase of a 300-degree simulator that provides training on a variety of scenarios that may face officers. The simulator highlights de-escalation techniques and “shoot-don’t shoot” training. The life-sized simulator helps officers prepare for real-life crisis situations they may face.

White has promoted alternatives to jailing the mentally ill. He has supported an ongoing initiative to pair mental health workers with police to identify situations where treatment, not incarceration, is the right call.

Under White’s leadership, Denver has embraced body cams, which help keep the department accountable.

Denver pioneered the concept of Crime Gun Intelligence Centers, which brings together crime prevention groups and processes forensic evidence to identify guns used in crimes. With this information, they are able to identify armed violent offenders and get them off the streets. It’s become a model now used in five other major cities.

Denver also has invested in ShotSpotter, which uses a network of acoustic sensors to determine the location of gunfire. This helps improve police response times.

The chief also has championed the department’s 40-hour Back to Basics training program, which all Denver Police employees will complete. It addresses key topics facing law enforcement like de-escalation, community engagement, ethical decision-making and officer wellness.

White is viewed nationally as a leader worth watching. He serves on the board of the Police Executive Research Forum, which weighs in on pressing police issues around the nation. He played an important role in the creation of the forum’s Guiding Principles on Use of Force, which has become an important document for departments across the nation.

It’s not surprising that major national police departments have attempted to recruit White away from Denver.

The Denver community will be fortunate if we’re able to keep White at the helm of our police department.

Christian Anschutz chairs the board of the Denver Police Foundation.

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