Denver Police union endorses Kelly Brough

The Denver Police Protective Association said it was all about experience and pointed to Brough’s work as chief of staff for former mayor John Hickenlooper.
4 min. read
A class of cadets graduate from the Denver Police Academy in Central Park. March 31, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The Denver Police Protective Association, the union representing more than 1,400 officers, endorsed Kelly Brough for mayor, citing her experience in city government.

"It was a very tough decision for this board," said Sgt. Tyson Worrell, president of the Denver PPA. "And we spent a lot of time with the candidates, and at the end of the day we are going with Kelly because we believe that she's the best person to run this city. She's the best person to partner with us to help address the crime issues."

Worrell said both candidates are "good people," but that Brough's background as a chief of staff for then Mayor John Hickenlooper -- having negotiated police contracts during tough economic times and her knowledge of how the city operates -- was the difference.

"For me, getting into this race, safety is a top issue," said Brough. "I hear from residents every single day that they share this concern about our city."

Crime has changed, and grown, since the pandemic and social unrest following the killing of George Floyd. 

Car thefts have nearly tripled in the city, so too, have reports of gun shots. Aggravated assaults have about doubled. Violent crime overall is up 42% between 2018 and 2022.

At the same time, police departments are struggling to keep qualified officers.

"Our staffing numbers are not what they need to be," said Worrell, who noted there were some strong academy class numbers lately. But still, "recruitment and retention all across the country for law enforcement is significantly down."

Brough's crime plan is not hugely different from her opponent, former state senator Mike Johnston.

Both want to hire more first responders, divert people into treatment, and build on co-responder programs for things like mental health to free up police resources for serious crimes.

Brough, though, has worked to secure a number of law enforcement endorsements throughout the campaign, some of which she listed off in accepting the PPA endorsement, including former city safety managers Al Lacabe and Fidel "Butch" Montoya, and former Denver chiefs of police Ari Zavaras and Gerry Whitman.

"I'm honored to have such support from these experts," Brough said. "Both in building our policy and our plans, but also in their commitment to make our city safer together."

The endorsement from the police union comes as both campaigns are in a scramble for endorsements, with just weeks to go before ballots are mailed to voters. Both Johnston and Brough are centrists with similar stances on key issues, so endorsements can be a key differentiator between them.

"I actually think it's maybe even greater than ever," said Brough. "Because there's lots of agreement about the challenges we face. There's lots of agreement even about, some of the places we might, how we might tackle" those issues.

In recent weeks Johnston has collected endorsements from former mayor Federico Peña, former mayoral challenger and State Rep. Leslie Herod, and several unions including UFCW Local 7.

Brough, meanwhile, has been endorsed by former mayor Wellington Webb and his wife, former state rep. Wilma Webb, former mayoral challenger Chris Hansen, and now the police union.

Brough does have direct experience negotiating contracts with the union when she was chief of staff. In 2009, she twice had to work to reduce pay for officers during the Great Recession. 

"This is about trust," said Brough. "You ask for what you need, you be honest with each other and you solve it together. And that's how I'll work as mayor as well."

One of the biggest ways the mayor can impact the police is the hiring of a police chief. "So the chief of police obviously has a huge morale effect on the department, right? And we need stability in our upper ranks. We need less politics and more practical application," said Worrell.

Should Brough win the election on June 6, Worrell said he expects the police union to be a part of that process with her. "And so when the time comes to talk about that with Kelly, we will," said Worrell. "So we can get the right person in there to join our team, to help us move forward, to get the right resources that we need and provide the right leadership for the troops."

An endorsement from the police could make a difference at a time like now, when crime is a top priority for voters.

Some political observers, like Eric Sondermann, say crime is scrambling the traditional left versus right divide.

"In a city where crime is a top-of-the-mind issue, that they want the next mayor to address," said Sondermann. "Having the support of the police association matters. I would much rather have that support than not."

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