Elias Diggins named as Denver’s next sheriff by Mayor Michael Hancock

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock appointed Elias Diggins to serve as the city and county’s next sheriff, bumping the department’s current operations chief up to a position he once held on an interim basis.

The move is meant to inject stability and experience into a department plagued by scandals in recent years and also is under a fresh microscope as demonstrators call for an overhaul of local law enforcement and equitable treatment for people of color.

And while Diggins once served as interim sheriff for more than a year, that experience came with its share of controversy.

“The new sheriff needs to be someone with deep community experience and knowledge of the department,” Hancock said.

Hancock went on to talk about the importance of second chances in announcing Diggins’ appointment.

“The past is the past and I’ve had some challenges but I’m ready to lead this department where it needs to go,” Diggins said during a news conference.

Diggins began working with the sheriff’s department in 1994, Daria Serna, the sheriff’s spokeswoman said..

He has substantial experience running Denver’s large jail system and served as the president of the American Jail Association. He remains on the group’s board of directors. His new position as sheriff pays $194,476, though Denver City Council can raise that past $200,000.

Hancock promised change for the sheriff’s department when he appointed Diggins as interim chief in July 2014 after Gary Wilson stepped down. At the time the mayor promised to expedite deputy discipline cases and review the department from top to bottom. During Wilson’s tenure deputies were accused of writing inaccurate reports and choking inmates.

Accusations of covering up evidence, reports of his criminal record and the ouster of the Downtown Detention Center chief, in part, marked Diggins’ time as interim sheriff. He served until October 2015 when Hancock appointed Patrick Firman. But problems continued under Firman, including the killing of inmate Michael Marshall at the hands of deputies.

Firman resigned in September 2019, a culmination of years of mistrust from the department’s 1,100 employees and community activists. Many complained Firman didn’t have the proper experience needed for the position.

Frances Gomez, the department’s director of professional standards has served as the department’s interim sheriff since then, the first woman to lead the department.

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

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