Officer-involved shooting investigations

 

 


When a peace officer shoots and wounds or kills a person in Denver, Colorado, a very specific protocol is followed to investigate and review the case.  Officer-involved shootings are not just another case.  Confrontations between the police and citizens where physical force or deadly physical force is used are among the most important events with which we deal.  They deserve special attention and handling at all levels.  They have potential criminal, administrative, and civil consequences.  They can also have a significant impact on the relationship between law enforcement officers and the community they serve.  It is important that a very specific and formal protocol be followed.  

In June 2008, the results of an in-depth independent review of Denver’s policies and procedures as they relate to officer-involved shootings were released. The review was conducted by the Police Assessment Resource Center and is posted here in its entirety: 20080714_084831_DeadlyForce.PDF

(For the complete officer-involved shooting protocol click here: PROTOCOL )

If criminal charges are not filed, a brief decision letter describing the shooting is sent to the Chief of Police by the District Attorney, with copies to the involved officer(s), the Mayor, City Council members, other appropriate persons, and the media.  In many cases this brief decision letter may be completed within a few weeks of the shooting.

The letter is intentionally brief to avoid impacting the integrity and validity of the Denver Police Department administrative investigation and review, which follows the criminal investigation and review.  (This represents a 2005 change from the very thorough, detailed decision letters that have previously been written by the District Attorney in these cases. This change has been made because the Denver Manager of Safety now writes an exhaustive letter at the conclusion of the administrative review of the shooting.  The Manager of Safety's letter can include additional facts developed during the administrative investigation and can provide the most comprehensive account of the shooting.)

(Click here to read additional comments about this by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey: Officer-involved shooting memo )

Click here to watch a 30-minute episode of Dialogue: Denver DA featuring a discussion of what goes into investigating an officer-involved shooting: Officer-involved shooting Video

After the Manager of Safety has completed the administrative review and outlined the conclusion in a decision letter, the Denver District Attorney may then make the DA's copy of the case file open for in-person review in the District Attorney's office by  any interested person. (The file cannot be available for review if criminal charges are filed or if the case was presented to the Grand Jury.)

DID YOU KNOW:

*If criminal charges are filed the case file then becomes a criminal justice record and the release of information is regulated by the Criminal Justice Records Act.

**If the investigation of an officer-involved shooting is taken into the Grand Jury, the investigative file is not available for public review due to Grand Jury secrecy.

***The Erickson Commision report is available on line Erickson Report.PDF

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  • 07-11-04 1234 W. 10th Avenue - Grand Jury report issued
  • 07-05-04 800 Block S. Wolff
  • 05-30-04 investigation completed by the First Judicial District Attorney
  • 03-17-04 217 B Knox Court

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*Earlier "decision letters" posted by request:

*If criminal charges are filed the case file then becomes a criminal justice record and the release of information is regulated by the Criminal Justice Records Act.

**If the investigation of an officer-involved shooting is taken into the Grand Jury, the investigative file is not available for public review due to Grand Jury secrecy