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Director of Manna recognized for service reviewing complaints against Durango police

Volunteer panel meets once a year to review all citizen-initiated accusations of wrongdoing
Durango Police Department Sgt. Deck Shaline and Deputy Chief Brice Current present Ann Morse, executive director of Manna, with a certificate of appreciation for her work on the DPD’s Citizen Complaint Review Panel. (Courtesy of Durango Police Department)

Professionalism, dedication, strength, kindness, understanding and care are just some of the adjectives the Durango Police Department used to describe Ann Morse, the executive director of Manna.

The department recognized Morse for her work on the department’s Citizen Complaint Review Panel by presenting her with a certificate of gratitude for her service on Jan. 30. The volunteer panel meets once a year to review all citizen-initiated complaints against police department members during the previous year.

“She was one of the first one’s on the board and she’s been responsible for writing the conclusion memo to the chief the last few years,” said Brice Current, deputy chief of police. “And she’s just always willing to help even though she is really busy and wears a lot of hats. She is very effective and efficient and engaged.”

The panel assists DPD in maintaining transparency to ensure that complaints are thoroughly investigated and that procedures are not only followed but reviewed and changed if need be. Having a citizen review panel is not a mandate for the police department.

“We choose to do this, not out of transparency as much as out of partnership with the community,” Current said. “This is more about partnering with them to be transcendent, to be able to see things through their eyes and to help us get a broader view of how individuals in the community feel and what their expectations are. And then it also helps us investigate better and see better.”

Morse said it feels “amazing” to be recognized and honored by the police department.

“You know, being here at Manna we work a lot with the city and the police department, and they’ve been very supportive of Manna and everyone we serve,” Morse said.

The work the panel does is important because it gets community members working with the police department and gives them a voice in looking through complaints, Morse said.

“We are getting to look at all the information, the (bodycam) footage, the paperwork, everything,” she said. “We really get to see as much information as they have. And then we get to bring our voice and let the police department know if we thought it was handled appropriately.”

If the panel believes something wasn’t handled properly, they let the department know they think it could be done differently in the future.

“So it’s an amazing piece of transparency and accountability,” Morse said. “For me, being on the panel really shows me firsthand what the police department is doing and how they take amazing next steps of always trying to improve, and forward-thinking and really working with community members.”

There were 20 citizen complaints filed against the police department in 2022 and 23 filed in 2021.

The department’s Professional Standards Division investigates each complaint and talks to everyone involved and then provides its conclusions to the complainant. The division looks at policy, procedure, culture, body-worn camera footage and a totality of everything as part of its investigation.

When the panel is assembled it reviews all of the information “and what they are looking at really is to see if we did a good job investigating,” Current said. “So really they are looking at more than the complaint. They are looking at how good a job we did investigating.”

Panel members are chosen by the police department, but it doesn’t pick people who are going to throw softballs, Current said. In fact, some of the panel members are people who have filed complaints. What the panelists have in common is a high-level of integrity, professionalism and experience, Current said.

“And a common reality of how life works and how individuals and humans react,” he said.

After panel members review the complaints they provide a letter to the chief of police with their insights and suggestions. The department has never been confronted with having to completely fix anything; it’s more about things to consider as they move forward. But if the panel did conclude that something needed to be done differently, it would absolutely be rectified, Current said.

Morse has been on the panel for three years and has been responsible for writing the conclusion letter to the chief for the past couple of years.

“And each year we see they are hearing what we are saying and taking it in and implementing it,” Morse said. “Then they offer next steps and suggestions of what they can do differently. And then the following year we will see how it has been implemented and how you are not seeing that situation any longer.”


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