DENVER — A community task force has released a list of recommendations for the City of Denver to change its policing and public safety practices.
The Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety released a 53-page report listing 112 recommendations for ways the city can improve.
The task force was formed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and was comprised of more than 40 different groups from various political backgrounds.
The recommendations were broken up into five parts
- Empowering the community with more resources
- Minimizing unnecessary interactions with law enforcement
- Helping people transition back into society after being incarcerated
- Addressing and healing the harm caused by current policing practices
- Expanding community involvement and oversight in policing
“Our goal is to identify how we can improve not just policing in Denver but how we can improve public safety as a whole,” said Dr. Robert Davis, the project coordinator for the task force.
In order to come to these conclusions, the task force asked itself a series of questions, like when should it be necessary for someone with a gun to respond to a situation, and under what circumstances should someone go to jail?
“We need to begin to identify how do we minimize police interactions with citizens? We do have to recognize that the police is a paramilitary force, and as a paramilitary force, they carry out certain operations,” Davis said.
Under the first bucket of reforms, the task force recommended creating an autonomous, community-led, non-law enforcement public safety institution, expanding mental health services, ending cleanups or sweeps of homeless encampments on public property, offering more affordable housing and more.
“One of the things we've seen is that communities that have adequate resources are less likely to dial 911. When communities have access to mental health resources and housing resources and educational resources, they're less likely to call 911,” Davis said.
Other recommendations include the decriminalization of sex workers who are victims of human trafficking, decriminalizing quality of life offenses and other petty infractions, decriminalizing traffic offenses, prohibiting police from conducting searches during traffic violations, removing police traffic stops and crash reports, taking officers out of schools, ending cash bail and permitting safe injection sites, among other things.
“Resources need to be allocated to things that people need in order to prevent and reduce harm rather than respond to harm with more harm,” said Katie Leonard, a community organizer and a co-facilitator for the task force.
Numerous recommendations also revolved around police training and accountability, calling for the independent monitor to be appointed by the city council and to serve a term of four years in order to help make the position truly independent.
It also suggested changes to allow the monitor to have the resources they need to properly investigate incidents.
Davis would also like too see more community involvement in law enforcement training and for departments to think critically about who they are sending out to respond to certain calls and for what reason.
Dr. Apryl Alexander, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver, reviewed the recommendations and says many of them are not necessarily new, but they are evidence-based approaches.
“I think the question going forward is who do we hold accountable for making sure these recommendations are met? How can we experiment with some of these recommendations to see if they actually do resolve in some of the issues that we’re having in our community?” she said.
Meanwhile, Leonard says these recommendations are really just the start and are laying the foundation for all of the work that’s ahead. While the task force will be appealing to the city to implement the changes, she is also pushing for more community involvement to turn recommendations into action.
“We need community to step in and say, "We want to do this. This is how we think they should be done. This is how we know it should be done. This is how we hope this can become a reality,'” said Leonard.
Denver7 reached out to the mayor’s office, Denver Police and the Department of Public Safety and was told both are reviewing the recommendations and expect more details to come out next week after they have had a chance to digest the proposals.
Meanwhile, City Council President Stacie Gilmore, meanwhile said in a statement: “We have heard and support our Denver community’s desire to re-frame public safety from an anti-racist lens. I would like to sincerely thank the community taskforce who came together and took the time and effort these past several months to develop these important recommendations. I look forward to working together as we move forward in reimagining policing and public safety in Denver.”