Denver officer chosen to lead Littleton police

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A captain with the Denver Police Department is heading to Littleton to become the new police chief.

Douglas Stephens, who had the unanimous support of interview panels, is eager to begin his new job.

“The Littleton Police Department has a reputation as being one of the best in Colorado,” Stephens said in a written statement. “I am excited at the opportunity to lead this exemplary group of professionals. I can’t wait to get started.”

Stephens will lead a department that’s faced some internal struggles in recent years, and there is much hope he will be a unifying force. The Littleton Police Officers Association endorsed him last week, and the membership is “extremely pleased” with the announcement, said its president.

“We believe his experience and knowledge and understanding of what true leadership is will hopefully bring what some of our members believe is a divided department together again,” Officer Steve Keliiholokai, president of LPOA, wrote in an email. “I believe Doug Stephens will work well with our city manager, Michael Penny.

“Michael Penny has an open-door policy, and several of our members have taken the opportunity to meet and discuss their concerns with him. His decision to select Doug Stephens is exactly what we were hoping for.”

Although more than 40 people interviewed the five finalists, the final choice was Penny’s.

“He understands that I am looking for a human-focused leader who knows law enforcement and has the skills to meet the community’s needs,” Penny wrote in a statement. “I want Doug to move the department forward by bringing everyone together as a cohesive unit.”

Stephens replaces Heather Coogan, who announced her retirement Jan. 18, after two years of some internal turmoil and just months after a survey of city employees showed the police department was less satisfied with its direct supervision and senior leadership than other departments. Coogan had been chief since 2007.

Stephens will leave his position as commanding officer of the Denver Police Department Gang Bureau to come to Littleton, which saw its first gang-related murder last October.

He was a commander in Denver until Chief Robert White’s shake-up of the department upon his arrival in December 2011. White subsequently made all the commanders reapply, and ultimately replaced Stephens and two others. Stephens was returned to the rank of captain.

Stephens began his law-enforcement career in 1991 at DPD. He did stints as the commander of the Pattern Crimes Bureau and commander of Patrol District One, the northwest quadrant of the city.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in administration of justice/psychology from the University of Wyoming and his master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Colorado-Denver. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Stephens, whose salary in Littleton will be $130,000, is expected to start his new job in early May. Until then, Cmdr. Gene Enley is serving as acting chief. Cmdrs. Kim Ferber and Paul Creadon are acting division chiefs, since Bob Brandt and Bill Christensen also retired.

Penny is leaving the decision about permanently replacing Brandt and Christensen up to the new chief.