Dec 7, 2021 - News

Colorado law enforcement wants millions more to address rising crime

Illustration of a plastic evidence bag with an upwards trending bar line in it.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Colorado leaders are requesting a significant infusion of new spending on law enforcement to blunt a spike in violence.

Why it matters: An increase in crime rates, white supremacy activity, threats toward public officials and cyberattacks are creating novel challenges for the state's overburdened law enforcement agencies, according to Gov. Jared Polis and other state officials.

What they're saying: "We need to step up and do more to keep Coloradans safe and fight crime," Polis told state legislators in his budget presentation on Friday.

Yes, but: The governor also wants to grow the state's law enforcement corps. His budget proposal calls for a 21% increase in discretionary spending from the general fund at the Department of Public Safety.

  • The Colorado Bureau of Investigation would get a three-year 60% budget increase that eventually adds $15 million more annually and the equivalent of 107 agents and other staff, according to budget documents.
  • The agency's leaders say the funds are needed as part of a "right-sizing" to bring it to par with similar agencies in other states.

What's more: Additional requests from the Polis administration that lawmakers are now considering include:

  • $4.5 million and the equivalent of 28 full-time state troopers and staff to enhance security at the Capitol complex and address increasing violent threats aimed at elected officials.
  • $1 million to prevent bias-motivated violence in response to "a noticeable increase in white supremacist activity over the last five years."
  • $400,000 for a new cybersecurity division after ransomware attacks on the state transportation division and local agencies.

Between the lines: The Democratic governor is cognizant that his spending requests come as activists and more progressive members of his party demand to defund law enforcement.

  • The grants to local agencies would include "guardrails to ensure that increased presence does not lead to overly aggressive policing practices," budget documents state.

The big picture: Polis' focus on rising crime comes as he faces re-election in 2022, where one of his top opponents is using the issue against him.

In a recent interview with Axios, Polis supported more money for local law enforcement but downplayed his concern for the broader issue, saying it was "related to unemployment and the economy."

  • "As the economy improves, I expect that crime will decrease," he said.
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