DENVER (KDVR) — Amid massive COVID-19 budget shortfalls, the FOX31 Problem Solvers — for weeks — have been asking Denver officials how much taxpayers will spend on recent protests, riots and the police response. On Wednesday, Denver City Council members asked city bureaucrats the same questions.
You cannot put a price tag on the value of creating a more just and righteous society, but the the City and County of Denver owes residents financial transparency.
“Our fiscal budget is just in a crisis right now,” said Denver’s public safety director, Murphy Robinson, before the council’s committee on safety, housing, education and homelessness.
COVID-19 is putting budgets across America on life support. As Denver grapples with how to continue providing basic services, the city tells the Problem Solvers it still doesn’t have an estimate on how much money will be spent on damage to city property. It’s unclear if Denver is making an effort to estimate damage to private property.
Council members grilled Robinson during their committee meeting on Wednesday.
“How much did we spend on the demonstrations?” asked District 5 councilwoman Amanda Sawyer.
Sawyer continued with a string of questions.
“How much did we pay in police overtime? How much did we pay to hire other agencies to come into our city? How much did we pay in things like tear gas? How much are we going to have to pay in clean-up? How much are we going to have to pay in settlements over the next ten years to people who are going to sue our city for lost eyes?”
Robinson responded to Sawyer, “Some aspects that you missed were — How much are we going to pay [for] the officers who had their legs shattered? How much are we going to pay for public works and public safety employees who might have life-long injuries?”
The Problem Solvers have confirmed vandals damaged 76 police and sheriff department vehicles during the riots. The city says it will cost at least $48,600 for bodywork and glass replacement. That number could rise. Officials still don’t know what it will cost to repair and replace police radios and computers.
Council members also noted the need to not overlook brewing tension while discussing taxpayer money. The loss of trust in police and the emotional toll outweigh budget woes, council members made clear.
While calls to reallocate police funding to social services grow louder, Denver’s public safety division appeared to welcome a new approach. But the director warned police will not be able to “do business as usual.”