DENVER — City council members rejected an effort to remove $4 million from police recruitment and other public safety programs Monday night.
The money would have been redirected to Denver’s STAR program, which sends behavioral health clinicians and paramedics to nonviolent calls.
Mayor Mike Johnston made rebuilding the Denver Police Department a key part of his budget plan next year.
“We know this has been a major crisis,” Johnston said when he released his budget proposal in September. “We don't have enough officers to do the work and respond to the calls that residents have.”
The mayor’s budget calls for three cadet academies that would help Denver add 167 police officers at a cost of $8.2 million.
The mayor said it would help get the city to its full authorized strength of 1,639 officers.
“That is also the largest number of new officers we brought on in nearly 20 years in the city, which we think will both help make sure we have the resources we need and help make sure we're deploying officers to the places where they can be their highest and best use,” said Johnston.
In addition to recruiting new faces, the city must replace officers who retire or resign from the force each year.
Denver City Councilwoman Sarah Parady wanted to take $4 million away from the police department and other safety programs and give it to the STAR program.
About $2.7 million would have come from money allocated for police recruits.
Another $1 million would have come from the Street Enforcement Team (SET) program, which engages with people violating low-level ordinances that impact quality of life. Its unarmed team members can issue people citations.
About $300,000 would have come from the Assessment, Intake, and Diversion (AID) Center, which provides resources for people who have active warrants for low-level and non-violent crime. (Parady pulled this amendment before council members could consider it.)
Parady said additional funding for STAR would allow the program to expand and provide services to more people.
“Many, many calls to the 911 center that would qualify for a response by STAR instead of a response by an armed responder do not get a response because the program is not large enough,” said Parady.
Right now, the STAR program only operates between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Calls outside this time period are transferred to the police.
While introducing her amendments to redirect the funding to STAR, Parady addressed criticism that her proposal was part of a political desire to defund the police.
“I’m not up here with a protest slogan. I’m up here proposing that we look at what works to make people in our city safer – concretely safer – and conversely what doesn’t work,” said Parady.
Several council members shared concerns about Parady’s proposal.
“I am not even willing to consider it,” said Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer. “Crime is the number one concern of my residents, and I am not willing to take out a recruit class…in order to fund this program (STAR).”
"The people in the last election spoke loud and clear in their choice among the mayoral candidates. They wanted more police protection," said Councilman Kevin Flynn. "Every neighborhood in this city has asked for more officers."
Parady introduced two amendments Monday night.
Both of them failed by a 9-4 vote.
Council members Parady, Lewis, Gonzales-Gutierrez, and Gilmore voted for the amendments. All other council members (Alvidrez, Flynn, Hinds, Kashmann, Romero Campbell, Sandoval, Sawyer, Torres, and Watson) voted against them.
The city council has until Nov. 13 to approve next year’s city budget.