By Mark Ackerman

DENVER (CBS4) – Do Denver police officer make decisions based on race? That’s what the top cops at DPD want to know and they are launching a new data collection program in an attempt to find out.

Beginning in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood, police officers will be required to determine and record the race of every citizen they contact. The goal is to expand the program citywide.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“Does an African American stand a different chance of being pulled over than a white person?” asked Deputy Chief Matt Murray. “That’s what we are starting to get to the heart of.”

The police officers will have software installed on their smartphones to collect the racial data on every “discretionary contact,” including when an officer decides to pull someone over or stop them on the street.

Early on in the nearly two year process to come up with the collection methodology Police Chief Robert White told CBS4,“It might be in our best interest to ask the person what their race is.”

But, in the pilot program, the officers won’t be instructed to ask citizens about their race. Instead, the racial data they collect will be based on the officer’s “perception at the moment of the stop.”

DPD’s technique of measuring an officer’s perception is similar to the current practice at the Colorado State Patrol.

In 2016, CBS4 analyzed data from all CSP stops and found Hispanics were more likely to get a ticket when stopped by state troopers.

In response to the disparity, the Colorado State Patrol instituted a mandatory two-day training in “fair and impartial policing” for all of its troopers.

After collecting data of its own, DPD will be able to make similar assessments.

“We believe that over time, with every officer in the department compiling this data we will get big enough numbers to start to see if there are issues or things we should address,” said Murray.

More information will be provided at a community meeting at the Park Hill Seventh-Day Adventist Church on June 12.

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

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