Flashing lights on top of police patrol car concept

Denver's Citizen Oversight Board has chosen not to hire any of the three finalists previously named for the city's next police watchdog, the board announced Tuesday.

Last month the board, which has the authority to choose the head of Denver's Office of the Independent Monitor, named Joseph Lipari, Dana Walton-Macaulay and Michael Booth as finalists for the position.

The agency monitors investigations of Denver’s safety officers, including shootings, in-custody deaths and inquiries that turn into criminal investigations, and makes recommendations about discipline and policy to the manager of safety. It also monitors investigations of citizen complaints about misconduct such as improper use of force, discrimination and retaliation.

The top monitor job has been vacant since former monitor Nick Mitchell stepped down more than a year ago to oversee a consent decree over constitutional violations in Los Angeles County's jail system.

Shortly before Mitchell resigned, his office did a special investigation in summer and fall 2020 into Denver police’s handling of that year's racial justice protests, finding the department misused less-lethal force tactics, at times acted anonymously without body-worn cameras, and for at least a few days did not keep rosters of officers assigned to the protests.

Lipari has served as Boulder’s independent police monitor since 2020, the first person to hold that position in the city. 

Walton-Macaulay is deputy director of the Portland, Oregon, Independent Police Review, the police oversight branch of the city auditor’s office.

Booth works in the attorney general's office as an assistant deputy attorney general for criminal justice and is the director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

The board hosted two public forums along with a handful of community organizations for the finalists in mid-February. 

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Julia Richman, the board's chair, said consensus among the community groups didn't ultimately coalesce around one top candidate the way she might have expected.

"It was less about one stakeholder group, and it was more about all the stakeholder groups."

She was cautious about the details she shared about the hiring process, but said a moment during one public forum when the candidates each admitted they didn't know who Paul Childs was struck a chord with some members of the public. 

Childs was a teenager with a developmental disability whose fatal shooting by a Denver police officer in 2003 fueled the creation of the Office of the Independent Monitor.

"In any organization, history matters. And so for our community, that was a really important question that got asked" in the public forums, Richman said.

The board in a news release thanked each finalist for their commitment throughout the hiring process, but said, "though each candidate has admirable experience, qualifications, and a lot to offer their respective communities, none were quite the right fit for the particular challenges and opportunities the next monitor will face in Denver."

The board originally hoped to appoint the next monitor by spring. It now aims for late summer, the release said.