Thursday, May 28, 2015

Early Coverage of DA Race

The Colorado Independent, the state’s left-leaning independent news website, posted an early report of the Denver District Attorney race to replace term-limited Mitch Morrissey, who will complete his 12-year run in November 2016.
DA Mitch Morrissey

Susan Greene, one of Colorado’s premier investigative journalists covering many criminal justice stories during her career at the Denver Post, interviewed the three candidates identified to replace Morrissey – Michael Carrigan, CU Regent; Beth McCann, State Representative; and Kenneth Boyd, a current Chief Deputy DA.

Greene believes the main issue will be police misconduct and failure to prosecute in the matter of the police shootings in Ferguson, Staten Island, South Carolina and Baltimore. The leading local case is Jessica Hernandez, an unarmed 17-year old girl killed by Denver police in late January.

And, indeed, the three candidates, all Democrats, offer some criticism of Morrissey on the police prosecution issue, but it’s relatively mild. They all advocate more engagement and transparency, implying Morrissey does not offer enough.

Boyd, across a range of commentary, flat out believes much of the rhetoric about use of force has outrun reality and doesn’t believe “there’s an excessive force problem in Denver.”

McCann, as a former state attorney and Denver Manager of Safety, takes the most centrist position, balancing her statements about more aggressive investigations and police prosecution with the public’s concern over gang violence.

Carrigan, the frontrunner with many early liberal establishment endorsements, is the most aggressive critic, but tempers it by stating the obvious fact that he doesn’t have all the evidence to second-guess Morrissey’s decisions. But, he proceeds to say that recent jury awards raise questions and that the investigative process takes too long and lacks transparency.

The police misconduct issue in city politics is fraught with danger for local politicians. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned against stop-and-frisk police practices and appeared sympathetic to protesters after the Staten Island decision to not indict in the Ed Garner death (“I can’t breathe”), the police union began its own high-profile campaign of protest.

Probably the most damaging recent event to Denver’s reputation was the gang violence reported on the front page of the Denver Post, above-the-fold. The story highlighted the threat people felt in the new gentrified neighborhoods of Denver.

If the DA candidates intend on framing the election around police misconduct, they may be surprised that Denverites, both north and south of 6th Avenue, want their prosecutor very focused on gang violence and crime in general.

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