Denver police leaders meet with community about use of force policy changes

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DENVER — Several people have ideas for Denver police as the department held a community roundtable meeting Saturday to proposed changes in its use of force policy.

The police department’s proposed policy changes direct officers to de-escalate volatile situations if at all possible instead of using force. The proposal emphasizes using the force that’s “necessary” instead of the force that’s “legal.”

Police chief Robert White also said the proposed changes are meant to keep police and suspects safe.

“If you really value sanctity of life, those individuals that are creating a havoc, that are creating crime in our community, guess what, I want them to go somewhere at the end of the day also. I want them to go to jail or to court. I want them to go anywhere but be killed or injured by the shot of a police officer,” he said.

Instead of focusing on quickly taking control of a situation, officers will be encouraged to slow down, when possible, to evaluate the situation, and consider their resources and options.

White has said that while some people might feel the proposals don’t do enough to change culture within the department, the police union disagrees. He said the union is opposed to the policy changes because it feels they are too restrictive.

The policy outlines when it is acceptable for officers to use “control options” such as restraint techniques, batons, chemical agents, stun guns, service dogs and deadly force.

White has talked about the need to change culture within police departments. He also discussed specific ways the Denver Police Department hopes to do that, such as rewarding officers who prevent crimes instead of just rewarding officers who make large numbers of arrests.

The meeting Saturday at Elevate Denver Church was the second of three public meetings.

The final meeting happens from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 4 at Red Shield Community Center (2915 High St.).