Independent monitor to investigate Denver police response to protests

Protesters face off with police May 30 in Denver, ignoring an 8 p.m. curfew on day four of protests over George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police. (Photo by Evan Semón Photography)

There will be an investigation into the Denver Police Department’s response to the racial justice protests, the city’s Office of the Independent Monitor announced on Thursday.

The office, which oversees the police and sheriff departments, was responding to the request of city council members, several of whom expressed concerns about the use of tear gas, less-than-lethal bullets and other unwarranted force against peaceful demonstrators and the media.

“You have asked that we evaluate, among other things, the DPD’s use of physical force, chemical agents, riot gear, and surplus military equipment, as well as its handling of community complaints regarding alleged officer misconduct during the demonstrations,” wrote independent monitor Nicholas E. Mitchell. “We accept.”

Mitchell cautioned that because the protests continued for so long, his investigators would need to review hundreds or thousands of hours of surveillance footage, amateur video, radio transmissions and testimony from officers and community members.

“I assure you that our small staff will move expeditiously, and we have already drafted our first request for documents and information, which we will issue to the DPD shortly.”

Councilman Chris Hinds, who suggested last week that the city should “look at those body cameras to see who did what,” approved of the news.

“I’m looking forward to supporting the OIM in its process,” said Hinds, whose central Denver district witnessed firsthand the chaotic response to the demonstrations. “This is a critical review for Denver, and we want to make sure it’s thorough and complete. I’m also happy to hear that [the Department of] Public Safety has committed its support to the process.”

The police department did not immediately return a request for comment. Last week, four Denver residents filed a lawsuit alleging that the police tactics during the protests violated their constitutional rights. In response, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the unrestrained use of chemical agents and projectiles on protesters.