By David Heitz/NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colorado) The police department has begun implementing the task force’s recommendations to reinvent policing, Public Safety Director Armando Saldate told the Denver City Council on Wednesday.
Saldate made his remarks during a presentation at the Security, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee meeting. He noted that all 112 task force recommendations and their statuses can be viewed on an online dashboard.
The task force formed after the 2020 police protests in downtown Denver over the death of George Floyd. Former Director of Public Safety Murphy Robinson had refused to hire the task force.
Saldate changed that when he took over the post. He said he has been engaged with the task force ever since and remains committed to working with the task force.
Of the 112 recommendations, 74% are being implemented, Saldate said. Of those who were refused, 41% could not legally be implemented, Saldate said.
Saldate and Public Safety Chief of Staff Jeff Holliday said the department uses a public health approach to public safety. “Public safety doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Holliday said. He noted that the city cannot stop to get out of trouble, especially when mental health issues go unaddressed. “That’s what led to (an arrest) in the first place.”
No cops at traffic stops?
Police Chief Ron Thomas said the department is focused on community policing. He recently updated the ministry’s mission statement to include “To prevent crime and build public trust while honoring the responsibilities entrusted to us by those we serve with an emphasis on partnerships, learning and innovation.
One recommendation from the task force is to remove officers from traffic checks. It cannot be done legally, Saldate said, but added that the department “would be taking substantial steps toward a non-policing response.”
The task force also suggested that the police department hire people with lived experience with the police. Saldate said he did.
Queuing for work for ex-prisoners
At the prison, a program has started where inmates interview for jobs at the Sheraton Hotel before their release, Saldate said. Others have construction jobs lined up before their release.
Council member Robin Kniech, who chairs the public safety committee, asked Saldate specifically about de-escalation tactics. Saldate replied that all officers receive de-escalation training.
Kniech also raised concerns about the development of a planned “diversion center.” The center would provide services to people “arrested” for minor offences. Kniech said the department needed to clarify exactly how the diversion center would operate. “If you can’t leave, you’re detained.”
Saldate said the furniture is currently being moved to the center of 14th and Elati. He said he was working with the city attorney’s office to make sure the center was operating legally.