Denver open to some law enforcement reform recommendations

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As the relationship between city leaders and a community-led task force created to reinvent policing and public safety began to falter earlier this year, Denver officials now appear open to at least some recommendations of the working group.

“We have had many areas where we saw common ground with the working group. We are not far from the end goal with the working group members and the people involved in the working group. am delighted to say that there are many And where there are questions, we have had an open dialogue and we will continue to foster that open dialogue with the members of this working group ”, Murphy Robinson, Executive Director of the Denver Department of Public Safety, said on an October 25 Denver City Council committee meeting at which he and other city officials explained how Denver plans to respond to the 112 recommendations issued by the task force to reinvent policing and public safety.

“I thank City Council and the Department of Public Safety for taking these recommendations seriously,” said task force coordinator Robert Davis of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance. Davis also praises District Attorney Beth McCann to continually send staff to meet with the working group.

In addition to Davis, who spoke at the October 25 meeting, the working group includes members such as Xochitl Gaytan, who is co-chair of the Colorado Latin American Forum, and Jill Locantore, Executive Director of WalkDenver.

In May, the task force issued recommendations that could lead to major policy changes in the city of Denver. For example, the task force wants to see the establishment of an automatic termination provision in cases “where the life is lost at the hands of the police force while the victim was not armed”.

Another recommendation is that the Office of the Independent Observer, the watchdog of the city’s law enforcement agencies, be made more powerful with subpoena power and “unimpeded access to all documents and systems in the department”.

The task force also recommended that Denver City Council and the Citizen’s Oversight Council obtain the power of appointment for the post of independent observer, rather than letting this power continue to belong to the mayor. City council members met with the task force halfway on this recommendation, passing a charter change measure to voters to give the Citizen Oversight Board the right to decide who becomes the independent observer.

“We believe the 112 recommendations are valid and need to be reviewed and implemented,” Davis said at the meeting, adding that the task force continues to meet on a monthly basis.

Click to enlarge Robert Davis coordinated the working group.  - EVAN SEMÓN

Robert Davis coordinated the working group.

Evan Semón

Robinson and other officials noted that the city of Denver has completed assessments of 30% of the recommendations, with a goal of completing the list by mid-2022. The Department of Public Safety will soon set up an online dashboard with the list of recommendations, indicating whether they have been accepted for implementation or denied.

In the meantime, Denver has already started implementing some recommendations. According to Robinson, the mayor’s office wants to ensure that the response to the recommendations is a “city-wide approach.”

The October 25 meeting brought out an unusually high number of key Hancock administrative staff. Besides Robinson, Deputy Chief of Staff Evan Dreyer, Police Chief Paul Pazen, Fire Chief Desmond Fulton, City Counsel Kristin Bronson, Sheriff Elias Diggins and Executive Director of Social Services Don Mares were all present. “It’s not often that you get almost the entire firm and its key executive staff at a committee hearing,” Robinson said.

The Task Force to Reinvent Policing and Public Safety was set up after protests over the death of George Floyd rocked Denver. Although city officials attended meetings after the group was formed in the summer of 2020, in January Robinson removed all Public Safety staff from the task force, complaining in an email to Davis that the other members had been handpicked by Davis and understood “little more than a personal sounding board for political opinion and rhetoric.” Robinson particularly took issue with the task force leadership asking the forces order not to join a particular meeting in early January. Davis responded by arguing that the task force leadership had asked law enforcement not to participate so that attendees could “talk freely about their thoughts. ”Davis also denied having handpicked the task force members.

In the months following this public breakup, there was “radio silence” from the Department of Public Safety, Davis notes.

But since the task force released its report in May, the group has met with Department of Public Safety officials four times, Davis said, adding he feels more encouraged by the relationship between the task force. and city administration these days.

“While the negative things are being highlighted and making headlines, I want to commend the city for trying to think about how we can improve,” Davis said at the Oct. 25 meeting.

But still, “the devil is always in the details” because the recommendations of the task force are taken on board by the city, ”he said.“ It is important that when we start talking about nuts and bolts, we have the community engaged in the process. ”


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