Denver police introduce new approach, task force for hate crimes

DENVER -- The Denver Police Department is taking a new approach to how it handles bias-motivated crimes, commonly referred to as hate crimes.

DPD introduced an all-new investigative unit and outreach team during a press conference Monday.

“We’ve always been very good at knocking on your door, asking if you’ve heard something,” said DPD Sgt. Carla Havard.

Havard is heading the Citywide Impact Team as part of the city’s new approach.

“What we haven’t been so great at — and what we are certainly changing — is now coming back and knocking on your door and asking you, ‘Are you OK? Can we help you further understand something that happened to yourself, to your neighbor, to your community?’” she added.

In the past, these types of crimes were handled by the Domestic Violence unit.

Now, the new Bias Motivated Investigative unit will take over.

“Bias-motivated crimes are frequently under-reported.  We hope to garner that support and trust with the community and come forward with — whether you’re a witness, party to or a victim of — these unspeakable crimes,” said DPD Sgt. Tony Parisi, who will be heading up the unit.

Amber Nicole, 23, did speak up about her recent attack in LoDo — telling FOX31 it happened because she’s transgender.

The community has since supported her, donating nearly $20,000 to help with medical bills.

Nicole suffered a broken jaw, concussion and other facial injuries, but says her recovery is going well.

"It’s just so heartwarming and amazing the way that people are reaching out and understanding and getting to hear the story. I feel so empowered,” Nicole said on Monday.

However, she fears many others have stayed silent.

”Each and every day, [attacks] are happening. It’s happening because of relatives, it’s happening because of friends. It’s happening — when you step out onto the streets — from complete strangers. It’s just all over the place,” she said.

FOX31 was the first to notify Nicole about DPD’s new approach.

“That’s amazing. That’s what we want. We want changes to happen and we want this to keep progressing,” she said.

An entirely separate team of officers and a licensed clinician will check in with victims and anyone else in the area affected by a crime.

Havard says these types of crimes have an impact on people other than the victim.

“We know it can create anxiety, reactivate old trauma and certainly bring forth anger. We understand that,” Havard said Monday.

DPD also hired what it calls a “civilian outreach coordinator” to strengthen community relationships and address public safety.

The woman heading that effort, Leslie Mongon, says this issue hits close to home for her.

"My grandparents were, unfortunately, discriminated against on their housing choices because of their religion in the 1950s. So, I think it’s very important to continue that work and make sure others aren’t discriminated against or harmed in the same way,” she said.

The new task force groups are effective immediately.

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