Demand that the Denver Police Department include Community Voice!
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DPD DENIES COMMUNITY VOICE IN USE OF FORCE (UOF) POLICY
CALL TO ACTION
Sign the On-Line Petition to
Demand Community Voice
Create a Community UOF Policy Review Board
The Colorado Latino Forum, Civil Rights organizations and faith-based groups demand that the Denver Police Department include community voice in its revised use of force policy. Despite promises by Chief Robert White to operate in a transparent way, he has denied CLF, community organizations, and even the Office of the Independent Monitor the opportunity to give meaningful input into policies that impact the safety of Denver residents from excessive uses of force by police.
“We are talking about policies that can directly impact people’s lives during a police encounter, yet we have no voice in this process,” stated Lisa Calderón, CLF Co-Chair. “Any public policy that was created in secrecy will lack legitimacy with the community.”
Calderón further voiced her concerns in a Denver7 interview where she advocated for the creation of a community advisory board that includes the Office of the Independent Monitor before the policy goes into effect. “We want to be able to review the policy point by point,” she said. “The same process used in the Denver Sheriff Department’s 'use of force' policy."
“While we appreciate the sentiment of allowing community members to make comments via email, whether that input is allowed pre or post rough draft is unimportant, we remain concerned that our input into the process will not be taken seriously in crafting the final language,” stated Rudy Gonzales, Co-Chair of the CLF. “Part of a healthy community engagement process is to have dialogue with not only law enforcement, but other subject matter experts and community stakeholders who have pushed for reform. When people are making random email comments, we are all denied the collective wisdom of the community.”
Gonzales went on to express disappointment that Chief White declined an invitation by CLF leadership to meet and discuss the policy changes, stating, “We are still hopeful the Chief White will change course and recognize the value of investing in a true community engagement process that will further the goal of increasing public safety for everyone.”
The exclusion of community input is particularly troubling given recent stories by Fox31 News, Shots Fired: The Data Behind Deadly Force In Colorado and Colorado Officer Involved Shootings Top 6-Year High which revealed that most of the individuals killed by DPD officers over the past 5 years were people of color. Nearly 60% of fatalities were Latinos even though they only comprise about 32% of Denver’s population. The stories also revealed that DPD is non-compliant with a new state law requiring full reporting of shooting incidents.
The Fox31 exposé included interviews with April Sanchez, mother of Ryan Ronquillo who was killed in 2014 by DPD officers. Ryan was unarmed and attending his friend’s funeral when he was surrounded by police serving a warrant. Teresa Avila, the mother of Dion Avila, was interviewed as well. Dion was also unarmed when he was killed in 2016 by a SWAT officer near Civic Center Park, also for a warrant.
In both cases, the lethal actions by officers were later deemed justified by DPD. Both mothers reflected on the need for more communication, transparency and accountability by law enforcement. However, neither mother was reached out to by Chief White for input about the use of force policy changes.
“Chief White has let us down so many times. He still hasn’t done anything about our demands or answered our questions. He hasn’t kept in touch with any of us,” stated Ms. Sanchez. She added that this new policy only serves the purpose of making DPD look good, while ignoring the pain of the mothers who lost children at the hands of law enforcement.
“The insensitivity shown to our community by being excluded from a policy that involves life and death decisions just adds insult to injury, especially given the disproportionate number of Black and Brown lives that have been lost due to police violence,” states CLF Board Member Veronica Barela. “If we don’t take a stand now and insist that our voices be heard, then DPD will continue to disregard our concerns about excessive force. If DPD is serious about building community trust, then they must operate in a more transparent and collaborative way.”
CLF is asking its members and community allies to sign the On-Line Petition to demand that community voice be included in the UOF policy process, and also create a community UOF policy review board. CLF is also planning additional community actions with a community coalition to push for more transparency and accountability for Denver’s law enforcement agencies.
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