Denver Police Department looks to community to overhaul use of force policy

Posted at 9:43 PM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 00:48:13-05

DENVER -- In the wake of several high-profile officer-involved deaths across the country, the Denver Police Department says is completely reworking the way it interacts with its residents.

Before it becomes official, the department is asking the community for input about the changes.

On Tuesday, DPD held its first public hearing for the community to weigh in on the overhaul, as some groups in Denver say the plan needs to more strongly focus on alternatives to deadly force.

“He could have been under control. They did not need to kill my son,” said Lynn Eagle Feather.

Eagle Feather wears a feather in her hair in memory of her son, Paul Ernest Castaway.

It was placed on him during his funeral.

In 2015, Castaway was having mental health problems.

“The principal of his old school was helping us to get him help, and the principal told me to call police, get him in jail so we can get help for him,” said Eagle Feather.

Instead he was shot during an encounter with police while holding a knife to his neck.

“I could never call 911 again,” said Eagle Feather.

Eagle Feather and dozens of others packed a room at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, arguing that Denver police treat them differently because they are minorities. 

A representative from Colorado Latino Forum said 60 percent of those who have been killed by DPD over the last five years have been Latino or Latina.

Several big changes will be made under the new policy.

“We’re trying to become more progressive, more preventive, more proactive,” said Police Chief Robert White.

For example, officers will be taught to be more flexible and respectful during stops under the new plan.

Also, instead of speed being the most important factor in safely ending a confrontation, officers will be encouraged to slow down to allow time for critical thinking. But some fear this could put the officer’s safety at risk.

One of the biggest changes moves the department’s philosophy from enforcing the law to preventing crime through community relationships.

The next two community meetings will be held Jan. 28 from 9 a.m. to noon at Elevate Denver Church, 2205 W. 30th Ave.; and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Feb. 4 at Red Shield Community Center, located at 2915 N. High St.

The department is taking community feedback to create the final policy.


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