It has been said for many years that the Denver Deputy Sheriff is the “Red headed stepchild” of the Department of Safety in Denver and indeed many Deputies in Denver feel exactly like that. Denver Deputies are used to feeling discounted and disenfranchised in the Department of Safety. Nevertheless, the Denver Deputy has always performed in a dedicated and professional manner without much expectation of the proper recognition for doing a tough job in arduous circumstances. But lately the job of Denver Deputies has become even worse than the normal adversity that they have traditionally faced.
The reasons for this increased adversity are most visibly demonstrated by the significant increase in assaults on officers and other staff by inmates and arrestees. Despite the administration’s denials of increased assaults on officers and other staff, it is clear that there is an increase in violence and assaults on officers. Just in the first two weeks of October there have been 10 assaults on Deputies throughout the department. More recently at least two members of the medical staff at the Downtown Detention Center were hit by a “feces bomb” while responding to a medical emergency in one of the jail pods.
The leadership of Lodge 27 FOP has been repeatedly raising concerns with the administration about the increase in assaults on Deputies and other staff only to have those concerns ignored or minimized. The FOP has expressed concerns about the failure in the new use of force policy because it requires officers to engage in lengthy analysis while moving through a system of many steps before deciding to use force. Once a decision to use force is made by the officer then they must articulate in a written report how they complied with the system of analysis and how they went through the steps before eventually using force. Only those who had never been involved in a violent incident or those who have some political agenda would believe this process is actually viable or even realistic.
Anyone who has experience in use of force situations and is being honest will tell you that they evolve rapidly and do not often allow time enough for some type of academic analysis while someone is being punched in the face. However, Denver Deputies are well aware that if they do not comply with the policy and articulate how they complied with it then they stand a very good chance of being disciplined, maybe even fired. The result is a generally more lethargic response to violence and potential incidents of violence which makes for a greater risk to officer, inmates, and the public. Jail inmates seem to know the quandary that Deputies are in because many of them who are now openly defiant are vocally expressing that Deputies can’t touch them. They dare Deputies to use force and cite the ability to file lawsuits and have officers disciplined because of the policy.
Again the issue of the unrealistic use of force policy was raised with the administration by the leadership of the FOP and the administration response was dismissive. The administration continues to hold to their story that assaults against officers are not increasing and that the new policy is better and safer. Perhaps they should review the first six months of incident data from the Downtown facility and they would find that there were 62 assaults on officers and staff and that 13 of those involved a weapon. There were also 85 assaults on inmates by other inmates and 7 of those involved a weapon. If this is the administration’s idea of a policy that is better and safer, than what would they think would be a lesser and unsafe policy?