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Denver's Department of Public Safety leaves group tasked with finding solutions to transform policing

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Posted at 8:26 PM, Jan 21, 2021

DENVER — After several months of trying to work together, the Denver Department of Public Safety walked away from a community group tasked with finding ways to transform law enforcement.

The department said their decision is based on multiple reasons, but, in the end, felt their voices were not being heard purposefully.

After a year filled with tense encounters and protests over police brutality, conversations began about how police can change their approach.

"I want to make this about how the community can work together to improve the way we do policing and public safety," said Dr. Robert Davis, project coordinator of the task force to reimagine policing and public safety.

To bring all sides to the table, Davis reached out to Denver’s Department of Public Safety to take part in these hard conversations.

"We wanted them to serve as advisors, as well as content experts, so as the community is thinking through what is the best approach to public safety, we would have their expertise to lean upon," Davis said.

But Murphy Robinson, executive director of Denver’s Department of Public Safety, said issues arose from the start.

"My staff brought concerns to me since the beginning. However, what I told them to do is lean in, and let's just really allow Dr. Davis to run this program and allow this task force to really be a fluid task force," Robinson said.

In a letter to Davis, Robinson said law enforcement participants in the task force were told, "not to attend or participate in meetings and community discussion." Also, to refrain from sharing their "thoughts, comments, and experiences, limiting their role to answering questions."

"And that's just not the type of environment, number one, I want my staff to be a part of, but also not what we need as the policy catalyst for our community," Robinson said.

For those reasons, and because of what Robinson said was a lack of diversity in the task force, he decided to remove personnel from the group as well as pull $50,000 in funding.

"This is just the worst time ever for community and police to disengage," Davis said.

Davis said Robinson’s reasons are based partly on misinformation, which he laid out in his response.

"Second of all, I think it was made from an emotional perspective. I think that once Director Robinson has an opportunity to reflect on how important this work is, that we will probably see a reversal to his decision," Davis said.

Both men have a similar goal, creating a safer and better place for their communities.

For now, the task force says the door is open for public safety to return, and Robinson said they’ll happily review any recommendations submitted to them on how to improve policing.