An independent investigation into the Denver Police Department’s chief and second-in-command has been completed and now moves to another agency for review.
The report, which was completed last week, is in the hands of the Denver Sheriff Department’s conduct review office, said Daelene Mix, a spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Safety. No timeline has been set for that review.
The sheriff’s conduct review office will study the report and decide whether Chief Robert White or Deputy Chief Matt Murray violated any of the police department’s policies when they denied having possession of a scathing letter from former District Attorney Mitch Morrissey about Murray. The office also will be reviewing Murray’s oversight of an internal affairs investigation that led to the arrest of a Denver police officer and a woman who were accused of sexual assault. The charges against the two were later dropped, and Morrissey had been critical of Murray’s role in the investigation.
If the sheriff’s conduct review office finds any violations, it will notify Stephanie O’Malley, the safety department’s executive director. O’Malley would consider recommendations and would decide whether Murray should be punished. If White is found to have violated policies, then Mayor Michael Hancock would be involved in any discipline because the chief is a mayoral appointee, Mix said.
If the conduct review office does not find any potential violations, then the ordeal, which began in May 2016, would be over.
O’Malley is following the standard procedure for disciplinary issues within the department, Mix said.
“She’s always at the end of the process,” Mix said. “The ultimate decision maker.”
O’Malley hired Flynn Investigations, a Denver law firm that also operates under the name Employment Matters, in March after questions were raised by the Denver Police Protective Association about Murray’s handling of the internal affairs investigation and about his and White’s responses to an open records request connected to that internal investigation.
The firm was paid $200 an hour for the investigation, which officially launched in May after a criminal case surrounding the open records request was closed.
In May 2016, then-District Attorney Mitch Morrissey sent a letter to White that criticized Murray’s oversight of an internal investigation that led to the arrest of a police officer accused of sexual assault and a woman who had been named as his accomplice.
The department issued news releases about the arrests, but charges against both were dropped soon afterward. Morrissey accused Murray of ignoring a long-standing protocol of using an on-call prosecutor to advise him on the case and of rushing to judgment toward the woman rather than waiting on facts to be determined. As a result, the woman’s reputation was tarnished, Morrissey said in the letter.
White told Morrissey he would look at the situation, but no action against Murray was ever taken. It would be months before the letter would be come public.
In January, the Denver PPA sent an open records request for the letter but was twice denied. An email between Murray and the safety department’s records coordinator shows that Murray had said, “I have no records responsive to this request.” The union eventually obtained the letter through the district attorney’s office.
The records coordinator later accused the chiefs of being deceptive.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann decided in May that she would not prosecute Murray or White for violating state open records laws although she was critical of them.