DENVER (KDVR) — Denver city council members shot down a proposal 11-1 on Monday night to replace the Denver Police Department with a newly-appointed Peace Force.
Had the bill passed, it would have ended up on the November ballot.
It was introduced by Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who said the Peace Force would prioritize a “holistic, anti-racist, public health-oriented approach to public safety.”
The majority of speakers during the public comment period of the city council meeting, addressed the proposed Department of Peacekeeping Services, all of whom spoke in favor of putting it on the ballot.
“Violence is woven in to the fabric of our police uniforms. To stop police violence, we have to rebuild the whole system,” said one woman.
Another man asked for more accountability from the Denver Police Department, asking city council to put the decision in the hands of voters.
Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer received different feedback from a survey she put out over the weekend, which she says received about 1,300 responses, a record number of responses compared to past surveys over the last year.
Seventy-six percent of those surveyed said they would not support referring the proposal to the November ballot.
“I think the feedback I’ve gotten has indicated that people feel that they would have preferred to have more than just a survey’s worth of participation in a conversation that’s important in our city,” said Sawyer.
Sawyer, along with other city council members, criticized CdeBaca for approving a direct file on the charter amendment, which means it bypasses committee and goes straight to discussion on the floor.
“The inability to ask questions, the inability to see the research that went into it, the inability to have discussions with the community and engage the community—that piece was missing,” Sawyer told FOX31.
“For this particular bill to have been filed without any discussion at all in our committee process, and having some input of details of what we would put on the ballot, that would make decisions for years into the future, is just irresponsible for the way we’re expected to govern,” At-Large Councilwoman Deborah Ortega said during Monday’s meeting.
CdeBaca also approved a direct file for two other charter amendments: one would create a nomination commission for the city attorney, the other would grant city council power over the independent monitor.
She said it was important to introduce them together, and have them discussed by city council as soon as possible.
“Is it not emergency that we have hundreds of investigations of police brutality and excessive force and no neutral party?” CdeBaca asked during Monday’s meeting.
“That is an emergency,” she continued. “And what we’re telling the public is that it’s not. And that is not okay, because there are two emergencies right now – it is the racism in our city and what our police are doing, and it is COVID.”
City Councilman Kevin Flynn said the proposal lacked transparency and engagement.
“I look forward to working with the entire community on this continuing effort, but I cannot support a last minute, ill-conceived and legally questionable proposal that hijacks the broader community’s work already underway,” he said, during discussion of the bill.
“The manner in which it was brought to us is a clear indication that it wasn’t meant to be taken at face value, but as political theater meant to continue the false dilemma narrative, by claiming we’re against reform if we don’t choose this,” he added.
CdeBaca argued the decision should have been made by voters, not council members.
“Test out your bias and your beliefs and let the voters tell us. Let the chips fall where they may,” she said, addressing several council members.
“We have an opportunity here to craft this. It’s going to be on the ballot, either in November or after, with or without us. That’s a right that our citizens have. But we have the opportunity to give it the attention it warrants and make it better now,” she said,
The bill failed 11-1, with one council member abstaining from voting.