Oct 21, 2022 - News

Denver says it's making changes to improve public safety agencies

Illustration of a police cap on dark background under spotlights.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Mayor Michael Hancock's administration says it's moving forward with — and in some cases has already implemented — recommendations issued by a citizen-led task force to improve public safety citywide.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, the city released a full response to 112 recommendations made by the Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety.

  • The city claims at least 74% of the suggestions are being implemented.
  • The recommendations were originally issued May 2021, but a city spokesperson told Axios Denver it took more than a year to provide a full response because the city conducted a "comprehensive review" involving multiple agencies, department heads and frontline personnel

State of play: The response comes as the Denver Police Department requests more money for additional officers and high crime rates plague the city.

Reality check: Only three recommendations are listed as "implemented" by the city.

  • These include: Making the Office of the Independent Monitor more autonomous; guaranteeing career services status for the independent monitor's non-managerial staff, and creating a sanctity of life statement in the Denver Use of Force policy.

By the numbers: The city's public safety department declined 16 of the 112 recommendations.

  • The remaining 96 are divided into various stages, including "will implement," "in progress," "previously implemented," and "other" — a category public safety spokesperson Kelly Jacobs said was used in instances where neither implementation or decline was appropriate.
  • The city created an online dashboard detailing its responses.

Between the lines: The city provided details for declining recommendations, while one — ending the controversial city-sanctioned homelessness sweeps — was "declined in part."

  • The city claims some suggestions are legally prohibited, and some did not have a reason for being declined.
  • Among the rejected ideas: Requiring officers to carry personal liability insurance; creating a civilian review commission with disciplinary power to replace the Civil Service Commission, which is responsible disciplining police officers; and requiring an annual inventory of all Denver police weapons and gears.

What they're saying: "I am encouraged that the city takes the recommendations seriously enough to develop a strategy for implementation," Robert Davis, the task force's co-leader, told Axios Denver.

  • Public Safety Department executive director Armando Saldate called the city's response a "significant" step toward getting its departments to a place that best serves and works with the community at large, per a statement.

What's next: Task force policy analyst Melanie Kesner said the group is creating a formal response to the city for each of its recommendations, along with a grading system.

  • She said this response should be available by the end of the year.

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