CONTACT: Lindy Eichenbaum Lent
email@example.comPolice Reform Task Force Recommendations Are Released
Mayor John Hickenlooper released the final report of the Police Reform Task Force on Thursday and announced the City will move forward with implementation of the recommended changes to the Denver Police Department’s Use of Force policy and related training. These changes reflect the consensus of the diverse 38-member task force composed of community members, law enforcement officers, and city officials.
These additions to the Use of Force Policy include:
- Language to re-emphasize the Department’s dedication to recognizing the value of, and preserving, human life, as well as language to make officers aware that there may be a number of reasons, such as mental conditions, that may cause a person not to respond to an officer’s instruction.
- New language to emphasize that, under appropriate circumstances, an officer can de-escalate a situation to help defuse it.
- New language stating that officers will not discharge firearms solely to protect property and a paragraph discouraging officers from firing at, or from, moving vehicles except in self defense or in the defense of others.
- A discussion of the use of Crisis Intervention Training for officers in situations involving emotionally disturbed individuals and prescribes the use of certain tactics.
- A paragraph discussing recommended responses to persons wielding edged weapons.
The task force did not reach consensus on several key elements of enhanced civilian oversight models. Mayor Hickenlooper explained that he would study the differing recommendations and reports further before presenting final recommendations – in the form of ordinance – to Denver City Council in the next few weeks. Since the resulting recommended legislation could require changes to the Denver City Charter, the City would need to have language ready by late August to make the November ballot.
“I want to thank the Task Force members who worked so hard for so long to bring forth these recommendations,” said Hickenlooper, standing alongside Manager of Safety Al LaCabe and Police Chief Gerry Whitman. “I am forever grateful for their commitment to our city and for their willingness to sacrifice their personal time to help us. We will move forward in good faith to continue the reforms we started last December and to implement the reforms developed by the Task Force. We are committed to modernizing the police department to better protect the safety of both the general public and the officers themselves.”
The Task Force – created by Mayor Hickenlooper and chaired by Penfield Tate and Federico Alvarez – met for 14 weeks to explore (1) a new preamble to the use of force policy, (2) the addition of language to the Use of Force Policy giving officers the chance to de-escalate a situation when appropriate to defuse a violent situation, and (3) to review and discuss enhanced civilian oversight models, including the possible creation of an Independent Monitor system to independently review police actions and report to the current Public Safety Review Commission in certain situations. The community representatives, law enforcement officers, and city officials who comprised the task force generously donated several hours each week to this effort.
The Task Force reached consensus on every provision of change to the Use of Force Policy, except one proposed change concerning drug and alcohol testing in certain situations. Mayor Hickenlooper has directed Police Chief Gerry Whitman to begin implementing the agreed-upon changes and to begin training officers in regard to the new provisions. The City will continue to study best practices with respect to drug and alcohol testing of police officers.
The Task Force had more difficulty reaching consensus on changes to the civilian oversight model. In the end, they agreed on many aspects of a new system, but could not reach agreement on several key elements, including the ability of the Independent Monitor to participate in disciplinary procedures, and ultimately the role and powers of the civilian review board. Mayor Hickenlooper will review the civilian oversight recommendations, taking into consideration which sections received a consensus endorsement and which did not. He will also study the two minority reports that were submitted respectively by a group of community representatives and by the Police Protective Association before making final recommendations to Denver City Council.
In December 2003, Mayor Hickenlooper announced a series of reforms focused on changing the way the Denver Police Department engages with citizens, providing officers with the training and tools they need, and strengthening public confidence in the police force.
# # #