Denver will repost sheriff job, delaying hire

Denver will expand its search for a new sheriff and repost the job after conducting interviews with candidates this week, dashing hopes that a permanent hire would be selected by early May.

The selection committee was scheduled to present finalists to Mayor Michael Hancock next week but instead opted to broaden their search, Denver Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Kelli Christensen said.

“It’s not a rejection of the people interviewed thus far, they just want to talk to more candidates before they advance applicants to their mayor,” Christensen said.

Christensen declined to say how many people were interviewed for the position or who they were. She said there was not a new timeline for hiring a sheriff.

The city had planned to have a new sheriff in place by early May to replace former Sheriff Patrick Firman, who resigned from the position in September and took another high-paying city job. Interim Sheriff Frances Gomez has led the department since Firman’s resignation.

With the original timeline now out the window, the selection committee of city staff, council members and community advocates will rework the job posting and find ways to recruit more diverse applicants. It’s unclear whether the committee will bring in an outside firm to conduct a national search, as the city did when it hired Firman.

“They think maybe this process has been impacted by the pandemic,” Christensen said. “It’s a weird time to be looking for such a big position.”

Members of the search committee contacted Friday by The Denver Post did not return requests for interviews or declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements.

The original job posting for the sheriff position listed a salary of $194,476 and said the ideal sheriff candidate will have a master’s degree and at least five years of executive-level experience in a law enforcement agency about the same size and of the same complexity as the Denver jails.

The public safety department hosted meetings with sheriff department staff and city residents in November and December to hear feedback on what qualities were wanted in a new sheriff.

Sheriff department staff said they wanted an internal candidate who was familiar with the city’s jails and had strong leadership skills, Department of Public Safety memos show. They wanted a leader who would “Stand up to Political Leaders and City Department Heads,” the memo states.

Many of the comments from the community showed a desire for a sheriff who understood criminal justice reform, would focus on inmate re-entry and mental health needs, and would be present in the community.

Unlike most other Colorado counties, Denver’s sheriff is appointed by the mayor instead of being elected by voters.

The delay in the search for a sheriff comes as the city searches for two other high-profile public safety positions following the resignations of the fire chief and the director of the public safety department.

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