"I could detect anxiety about me," Whitman says, describing his re-interview process with Hickenlooper. "There's no doubt about that." During those first discussions between the mayor-elect and the interim chief, they talked less about the Childs controversy and more about their theories on policing. "This is my third police department," Whitman says. "And there's always turbulence. And that's a politically unpopular thing. All I was after is, were we, [the mayor and the PD] going to do the right things for the right reasons. Because sometimes it's going to be difficult. When you push people to intervene into tense situations, it's a dirty business. And I was very satisfied [with the mayor's response]. I think what he wants to do is 'reform' the police department, and my term for that is 'modernize.' Somewhere, I think they've got to connect."
Reform, modernize. Police chief, politician. Right reasons, political reasons. Tomato, tomahto, it's all the same as far as Whitman's concerned. And despite all of the political backbiting and criticism from disgruntled cops and citizens, the package that is Chief Whitman might be just what this city needs. Because beneath his stoic spit-and-polished exterior, there is, at least, a soul. During the Turney hearing, the chief mentioned that he was "out of town" when he was first informed of the Childs shooting. On that Fourth of July weekend, he was with his family at their mountain home just outside Denver; the chief, his wife, and their two children were at a neighbor's house. "His cell phone rang and he went outside," Nancy says. "He was gone 20 minutes, then 40 minutes, then an hour, and it dawned on me: Where's Gerry? I went up to our house and he was sitting in a chair. The minute I saw him I knew something terrible had happened. He was very serious. Very sad. Then he told me. He was sad because there's a dead kid, a family suffering and a police officer-a group of officers-who would forever be changed, and because the one who did the shooting would deal with this for the rest of his life."
"I wasn't at that Turney shooting," Whitman's old partner, Sgt. Costello, said when I asked him for his take on how the chief handled the incident. "I didn't investigate it. But just because a guy has a knife doesn't mean there's a high threat level. On a scale of 1 to 10, when that guy came at me with the knife it was a 10. ... As a chief, Gerry has always been able to make difficult and unpopular decisions. He expects the best. He expects us to be professionals out there. He expects us to meet the same standards that he sets for himself."
Not long after Whitman came to that fork in the road near the Cherry Creek Shopping Center and decided that instead of driving to his officers he would go to the Taki Dadiotis funeral, I sent him an e-mail, asking him about his decision that morning. Many of the people I spoke to about Whitman described him as "unflappable," "socially awkward," "sarcastic," "aloof," "political," "ambitious," and "smart"-the PPA's Nick Rogers told me that he thought "Whitman's intelligence and abilities are wasted on the Denver Police Department. He should be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company." In the days I spent with Whitman I saw evidence to support all of those descriptions. But it was Whitman's e-mail response to my last question that seemed to be the most personally revealing.
In his e-mail, Whitman explained that what had appeared to me to be a police commotion was, in fact, a run-of-the-mill auto accident. Attending the funeral was important to him because, he wrote: Taki was a good person. He had an amazing life story. He could tell stories from his perspective of the way Denver was decades ago, when I was a patrol officer along East Colfax, where we both worked for many years. Also, Taki's son-in-law is a Denver cop. When Mayor Webb appointed me in 2000, Taki had been lobbying for another candidate. After I [was] appointed, one of the first things I did was go to his restaurant so he could buy me lunch, and so he would know he was still my "buddy"-Taki's line was always (with his thick Greek accent) "How you doing, buddy? You doing OK?" He would faithfully call after any media event or police tragedy to say, "Hi." He would never ask for anything in return, and he was always asking what he could do for me and everyone else. Cool guy. I miss him.