- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson has stepped down after a series of embarrassing allegations of excessive force and misconduct throughout his department, including jail-abuse claims that prompted a judge to request a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

Mayor Michael Hancock announced Monday that Wilson will be temporarily replaced by Division Chief Elias Diggins while the city searches for a new sheriff.

The changes are necessary to restore public trust in the department, which has been roiled by misconduct allegations, including a video recording that surfaced last week that appeared to show a deputy punching an inmate in the downtown jail’s intake area, the mayor said.

Prosecutors are deciding whether to pursue criminal charges against that deputy, Thomas Ford. A second deputy was suspended for filing an inaccurate report related to the case.

“We have to have a new day in the sheriff’s department,” Hancock said. “All of us have been incensed by what we’ve seen, by what we’ve read, by what we’re investigating. Enough is enough.”

Denver’s approximately 890 employees are responsible for running the city’s two jails and providing courtroom security.

The city will also review how well the department’s internal affairs bureau investigates accusations of misconduct and find ways to expedite the disciplinary process, Hancock said.

The city’s independent monitor, Nicholas Mitchell, last year found that sheriff’s officials failed to investigate dozens of the most serious inmate complaints of excessive force, sexual abuse and bias by deputies. Wilson had implemented changes to the internal affairs process and added ethics training since then.

But Hancock said the department needed a complete overhaul. The city will consider hiring an outside consultant to help study its practices.

A federal judge last month asked the Department of Justice to investigate claims in a jail-abuse lawsuit alleging, among other claims, that a deputy allowed and encouraged a brutal attack on an inmate.

The department in February suspended a deputy whose unprovoked slamming of a handcuffed inmate into a Denver courtroom wall was captured on camera.

In April, a former division chief, Michael Than, was indicted on charges that he stole tens of thousands of dollars of tax software by hiding it in bags of dog food and other merchandise at local Target stores.

City officials said Monday that Major Frank Gale, who had been filling in for Than, is now on leave while the department investigates a complaint filed by another officer concerning the detention and release of a captain, Wilson’s ex-wife, who was arrested for assault.

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