Call for police ‘defunding’ prompts Denver leaders to discuss department’s future

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Police Department isn’t going to be phased out any time soon despite calls for “defunding” the organization, according to one Denver City Councilwoman who said she would like City Council to consider reallocating some traditional police funds to programs that would provide support to communities of color.

“We are still going to invest in our police department so that they can investigate crimes, so that they can get a body of evidence to take something to trial. Are we going to need to look at it from a different lens and different way? Yes. Most definitely,” said Stacie Gilmore, a Denver City Councilwoman. 

“I want my community to be included in those conversations. I want the very people – the black women, men, teenagers, and children who are impacted by racism and these systems – I want them to weight in and have their voices heard, and they know what they want and need,” she said.

Gilmore said the council would not be discussing the Denver Police Department’s budget until after the mayor releases his 2021 budget plan sometime this summer.

“If folks have opinions and ideas, please reach out now,” said Gilmore.

Protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter 5280 protested outside Mayor Michael Hancock’s home one evening last week by chanting “defund the police.”

“What we’re saying by ‘defund the police’ is we’re looking at, are there ways in which we can address some of these issues related to police violence through other means?” said Apryl Alexander, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver and a member of Black Live Matters 5280. 

Alexander did not attend the protest outside the mayor’s home.

“If we defunded the police, what would it look like for us to allocate some of those resources to areas that are addressing disparities?” she said, naming off potential investment ideas like job training, mental health and substance abuse support.

“If we dedicated more resources to those areas, there might be a society in which we don’t need policing,” she said.

Sgt. Carla Havard, the president of Denver’s Black Police Officers Organization, said eliminating police departments is not the solution.

“Certainly, this is an entity that needs to be funded, however, we understand the calls for maybe realigning some of the funding and certainly looking at some of the processes and procedures to make sure they’re being used as efficiently as possible,” she said. “I think it’s incumbent on all of us to look deep inside, get a return to humanity, and certainly, a return to management and leadership within the organization and reassessing some of the processes that have been allowed to happen.” 

According to Murphy Robinson, Denver’s executive director of public safety, the City is always looking for ways to better serve the community.

“A decision such as defunding police departments cannot be made without examining all sides, including any unintended consequences. Public Safety is interested in continued conversations with City Council,” he said.

Hancock issued the following statement Monday evening:

“As I have learned in my nearly two decades representing the people of Denver, and as a lifelong Denver resident, our safety officers provide an invaluable public service to our city. I also know we must hold officers accountable if they break the rules, and that keeping people safe is about more than just the number of officers on the streets. I understand people’s frustrations, and there is always room to make improvements and implement big changes if they are necessary. But I’m not inclined to oversimplify this into ‘defunding’ the police department.”

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