Denver Police Department launches racial data collection program

DENVER -- Do Denver police officers engage in racial-profiling during traffic stops? That’s the question behind the launch of a new demographic data collection program hitting our city.

In the coming months, Denver Police officers will be required to collect information on the ethnicity of the person they make contact with during traffic and pedestrian stops. Denver Police said it will improve community-police relationships and measure whether biased policing exists within DPD.

Concerns exist across the country, and in Denver, over aggressive treatment of minorities by police.

“It’s unnecessary and it’s brutality,” Porshai Campbell said. “There’s been a lot of discrimination with cops and people of color.”

Campbell believes her brothers have been racial profiled by DPD.

“Just by the color of their skin they were pulled over and were treated less than they should’ve been treated,” Campbell said.

Now as part of a new initiative, DPD will gather information about the stops - are they legitimate, and lawful or not?

Since September of 2016 the Demographic Data Collection Subcommittee has met weekly to form a plan for the collection and analysis of the data. Officers will fill out 34 questions about the individual on a digital data card through on an app on their phone.

“It will look at height, weight, what the person was wearing. What’d you perceive them to be? Did you think it was a black female, or white female before you made the stop?” Sonny Jackson with Denver Police said.

Officers will not ask you your race. Instead, the data collection is based on the officer’s perception of you. But that’s something that doesn’t sit well with all Denver residents.

“I’m very against that because people think I’m Hispanic. They think I’m Hawaiian or other ethnic groups but I’m Native American. We should be asked what we are,” Lynn Eagle Feather said.

DPD acknowledges that an officer won’t always identify the person’s race correctly, but they say the purpose of the data collection comes back to the officers first look at you. They say that will help them evaluate whether DPD is following its policy against discrimination.

“What we’re saying is what was your initial perception and then what happened once you made the stop,” Jackson said.

For Campbell she’s encouraged by this initiative and believes it will help the community.

“Things change when people start talking and address the issue at hand,” Campbell said.

The pilot program is set to launch in northeast Denver, in mid-July. The program will then be laid out city-wide by this fall. The data will be shared with the Center for Policing Equity – an independent research group that leverages data to address social challenges through transparency and accountability.

The findings of the study and analysis will be shared with the community.

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