Inside the Office of Richard Rosenthal, Denver's Independent Monitor

May 19 2011, 8:13 AM

News of terminations in the Denver Police Department has become so common it's rarely surprising. The latest cases include Kenneth Briggle, a 19-year DPD veteran found in contempt of court during his divorce proceedings, and Jay Estrada, an 11-year vet accused of botching and lying about an investigation into a hit-and-run involving a Stapleton woman who lost her unborn child in the incident (CBS4). While their recommended dismissals don't have the viral potential of recent police brutality cases, they're another knock for a downtrodden department that's also feeling the heat of an election season.

But Richard Rosenthal, the independent monitor for Denver's police and sheriff's departments, prides himself on keeping his work politics-free. Westword profiles the man who "polices the police," who describes himself as once "pathologically self-righteous" and takes his job so seriously he hasn't had a drop of alcohol in the six years he's lived in Colorado—just in case he's called into an investigation, which can happen at any time, day or night. Rosenthal does not have the power to enforce or alter disciplinary actions, but his findings often influence the person who can: Denver's manager of safety, a position that has seen incredible turnover in the past year and has, along with police chief Gerry Whitman, turned into a campaign target of Denver's mayoral candidates.

Rosenthal isn't untouchable, however, and an upcoming audit of his office has his enemies seeking revenge. They include the police union's president, who claims Rosenthal's influence has demoralized the department—and made the city's streets more dangerous—because cops are afraid to make contact with potential criminals. Yet citizen groups don't think Rosenthal's gone far enough. A look back over DPD's scandals (with pictures and video) provides a glimpse into the controversies Rosenthal has faced in the past year alone.