DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday introduced Ron Thomas as the acting Denver police chief, who he has also nominated to take over as the next police chief after current Chief Paul Pazen announced his retirement on Wednesday.
Thomas, who is currently the department’s division chief of patrol, has worked for the Denver Police Department for 33 years. Hancock said he had known Thomas since he was in his 20s, when Thomas worked in his neighborhood.
The mayor called Thomas a well-respected, homegrown officer who has close ties with several communities in Denver, and said he trusts Thomas to be the next chief as he finishes out his final term as mayor.
“He’s everywhere, and it’s one of the reasons why I thought [Thomas] was the obvious choice to be the next chief of police for the City of Denver,” Hancock said.
Thomas will become acting chief Sept. 6, the city said Wednesday, and will have to be confirmed by city council to become the next chief. Pazen’s retirement is effective Oct. 15.
Hancock said Pazen was on a planned vacation on Thursday but that it was his decision to retire after 28 years with the department.
Hancock said he’d already talked with Thomas about what he wanted him to focus on for the remaining 300+ days of Hancock’s administration, which includes continuing to focus on downtown safety, addressing the rise in crime in Denver, re-evaluating where to place officers as the department works to hire around 170 more, and working with the community to build better relations – especially in communities of color.
“I told Chief Thomas, we’ve got 300-plus days to make the model city in the nation on how to restore trust in the community,” Hancock said.
Thomas thanked Hancock for picking him as the nominee, as well as Pazen for his decades of service and friendship. He said he was committed to having communities who trust police officers despite the challenges the department currently faces.
“Response times are up, call hold times are up, but understand, our staffing is down. Community trust is also at a low point, and I’m committed to fixing those things. Those things will be addressed,” Thomas said.
He’d said he rely on his existing relationships and partnerships in the community to work to build more trust with others, and said he recognized that actions speak louder than words when it comes to being police chief.
Thomas said he wanted to further work on alternative response teams that could get more people on the streets to handle calls involving people using illegal drugs or people experiencing homelessness or who are in crisis.
“I want to identify what their needs are and the things they’d like to see in order to build and maintain trust,” Thomas said.