Staff re­form to unify two jails

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Noelle Phillips

Den­ver Sher­iff Pa­trick Fir­man on Thurs­day an­nounced he will re­struc­ture the em­bat­tled depart­ment’s com­mand staff as part of his plan to unify man­age­ment of the city’s two jails.

It is his first­ma­jor change since tak­ing of­fice in Oc­to­ber.

“We’ve re­ally got­ten to the point where we’re al­most two de­part­ments,” Fir­man said. “Over the years, they’ve drifted apart and been their own en­ti­ties.”

Be­gin­ning Mon­day, the depart­ment will be or­ga­nized around two divi­sions — op­er­a­tions and ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ma­jor Paul Oliva will be­come chief of op­er­a­tions while Chief Con­nie Coyle will over­see the ad­min­is­tra­tion side.

Pre­vi­ously, the depart­ment’s top two com­man­ders were ap­pointed to over­see the two jails— the Down­town De­ten­tion Cen­ter and the Den­ver County Jail on Smith Road.

Two for­mer sher­iffs will re­main part of the com­mand staff, al­though their new as­sign­ments do not in­volve day- to- day man­age­ment of in­mates.

Fir­man, who was sworn into of­fice in Oc­to­ber, said he spent the first three months on the job learn­ing the ins- and- outs of the depart­ment and watch­ing high- rank­ing deputies per­form their jobs.

He re­al­ized the down­town and county jails needed more co­he­sion, which is why he put one per­son in charge of both.

The new struc­ture was rec­om­mended by Hil­lard Heintze, a con­sult­ing firm hired to re­view the depart­ment.

How­ever, Mike Jack­son, pres­i­dent of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Den­ver Sher­iff Lodge, said he has doubts about the new struc­ture. The two fa­cil­i­ties have dif­fer­ent mis­sions, he said.

“One per­son can’t man­age both of those places,” Jack­son said.

An­other ma­jor change is the cre­ation of an in­mate man­age­ment divi­sion. That divi­sion will over­see in­mate clas­si­fi­ca­tion, which de­ter­mines where peo­ple are housed and what needs they have while be­hind bars. For ex­am­ple, it is used to sep­a­rate peo­ple fromr ival gangs.

In­mate clas­si­fi­ca­tion also was iden­ti­fied as a prob­lem by the con­sul­tants.

As op­er­a­tions chief, Oliva, who was hired in 1992, will over­see the two jails and the new in­mate man­age­ment unit. Coyle, who was hired in 1994, will su­per­vise ev­ery­thing from court­house se­cu­rity to train­ing, re­cruit­ing, tech­nol­ogy and build­ing projects.

Un­der the new struc­ture, six peo­ple will re­port di­rectly to Fir­man: Oliva; Coyle; com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Si­mon Crit­tle; fi­nance di­rec­tor Mark Valen­tine; Maj. Jodi Blair, who runs in­ter­nal affairs; and Capt. Stephanie McManus, who over­sees the con­duct re­view of­fice, which rec­om­mends dis­ci­plinary ac­tion based on in­ter­nal affairs find­ings.

Each jail will have ama­jor in charge of it, and they will re­port to Oliva.

As for the two for­mer sher­iffs, Chief Gary Wil­son has been work­ing with tech­nol­ogy and an­a­lyt­ics since he stepped down in July 2014 amid tur­moil within the depart­ment. He will con­tinue in that role.

Chief Elias Dig­gins will serve as projects man­ager. His im­me­di­ate fo­cus will be the ex­pan­sion of women’s hous­ing at the county jail.

Both men’s ranks are pro­tected by city em­ploy­ment rules, which means the depart­ment now has five chiefs in­stead of three.

“They’ve both com­mit­ted to me that they are go­ing to con­tinue work­ing for the good of the depart­ment,” Fir­man said.

Fir­man will turn his at­ten­tion to­ward the next level of of­fi­cers. The depart­ment has many peo­ple work­ing as in­terim cap­tains and sergeants.

The depart­ment has hired an out­side com­pany to de­velop a pro­mo­tions test for cap­tains and sergeants, and Fir­man said he is de­vel­op­ing a sys­tem for those peo­ple to ap­ply for higher ranks.

He also is work­ing with the new com­mand staff to draft a strate­gic plan for the depart­ment.

Den­ver Sher­iff Pa­trick Fir­man spent the last three months learn­ing the ins- and- outs of the depart­ment.

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