Meetings seek community input on reforms to troubled Denver Sheriff Department

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DENVER — Denver sheriff's deputies who use excessive force should be punished, residents told public safety officials Saturday during the first of four community meetings to discuss reforms to the troubled department.

The meetings come as the sheriff's department tries to make sweeping changes after a series of high-profile misconduct and excessive force cases, including a jail beating lawsuit settled in July for $3.3 million. Former Sheriff Gary Wilson resigned after the settlement but remains with the department.

Officials say they want the public to weigh in on department policies, discipline, training, staff well-being and what characteristics they would like in a new sheriff.

The Denver Post (http://dpo.st/1obWP1M ) reported that several residents said discipline is too slow and light for deputies who abuse inmates. Others expressed concern about mental health treatment for inmates, and one former city employee suggested deputies be trained in social service skills so they can help rehabilitate those they guard.

Interim Sheriff Elias Diggins said he would do more for mentally ill inmates if money and resources permit.

A Denver Police Department bomb squad truck, motorcycles and squad cars were stationed outside the high school where the meeting was held, which some residents criticized as an unnecessary show of force at a meeting aimed to address excessive force complaints. Mayor Michael Hancock said the equipment was on hand as part of a public relations effort associated with a separate meeting at the high school.

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