Police watchdog Nick Mitchell resigns after scathing report of Denver PD

The independent monitor will oversee major reforms in the Los Angeles jail system.

Nick Mitchell, Denver's independent monitor, sits in front of former Denver Department of Public Safety Executive Director Troy Riggs and Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen as Denver City Council's Safety, Housing, Education, & Homelessness Committee meets to discuss expanded powers for the Office of the Independent Monitor, Jan. 16, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Nick Mitchell, Denver's independent monitor, sits in front of former Denver Department of Public Safety Executive Director Troy Riggs and Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen as Denver City Council's Safety, Housing, Education, & Homelessness Committee meets to discuss expanded powers for the Office of the Independent Monitor, Jan. 16, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Two weeks after releasing a damning report about the Denver Police Department’s mishandling of this summer’s protests for racial justice, Independent Monitor Nick Mitchell announced he’s leaving Denver for an opportunity in Los Angeles.

In 2012, Mitchell was appointed head of the Office of the Independent Monitor, which watchdogs the city’s police and sheriff departments. The office’s work helps guide internal investigations and various reforms.

Mitchell has overseen thousands of investigations into complaints of misconduct, according to a statement from his office. He also helped reform the Denver Sheriff Department after the death of Michael Marshall and co-led an overhaul of the police department’s use-of-force policy.

“It was an extremely hard decision to make because my blood sweat and tears go into this work,” Mitchell told Denverite. “But there are some calls you just can’t say no to.”

The Department of Justice has appointed Mitchell to oversee the correction of “systemic, unconstitutional conditions” in the Los Angeles County jails, “the largest municipal jail system in the world,” according to the statement.

City Councilmember Robin Kniech tweeted that she was “sad to hear” of the news.

Other advocates echoed her regret and said they were happy for Mitchell’s new opportunity.

“It is a tremendous loss to us at this point,” said Apryl Alexander, a criminal justice reformer who sits on the city’s Citizen Oversight Board. “Nick Mitchell has had such great contributions, to the Office of the Independent Monitor over the years and has just demonstrated some incredible leadership with the George protest recommendations. So I’m just really shocked and sad but also happy for him in his new role and really continuing this work and expanding it in LA.

“Nick has just been instrumental in really listening to the various constituents that he needs to in his role to make the policy recommendations he’s made over the years.”

Elizabeth Epps, a local jail abolitionist, also weighed in.

“In my experience, Nick Mitchell was conscientious, thorough, and Denver was indeed lucky to have him,” Epss said via text. “I hope we can honor the work he did by strengthening (the) OIM even as we look for it to be lead by someone as committed as he was.”

Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association, the police union, has butted heads with Mitchell and his reforms over the years. Rogers has called Mitchell a “dragonslayer” in search of dragons. But on Friday the union president told Denverite that he felt “pretty ambiguous” about the resignation. “I got nothing to say,” Rogers said.

To find Mitchell’s replacement, the city government will recruit a five-person screening committee that will submit three names for Mayor Michael Hancock to choose from. The Denver City Council must confirm the new independent monitor with a vote.

“It has been a great honor to serve Denver as its Independent Monitor,” Mitchell said in a statement. “I hope I have left a legacy of fairness and reform, and I look forward to staying involved in the Denver community.”

Mitchell’s last day is Jan. 4. He will continue to live in Denver in his new role.

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