DENVER (CBS4) – Murphy Robinson, 31, was named Denver’s Manager of Safety in late May in the midst of a pandemic, followed by riots that have left the lifelong Denver resident devastated.
“I sat in this office the other day,” said Robinson. “Where I shed tears because this is not the city I recognize when it comes to the vandalism and destruction that’s occurred. It hurts my heart, it hurts me deeply to where this is, where we are at.”
In a one-on one interview with CBS4, Robinson revealed that during the protests, he handed out water to protesters because he wanted to let them know they were supported. He has also spent time on the other side, with Denver police officers on the front lines. He said he donned a helmet and mask and was glad he did.
”When I was on the line I was hit by a rock, and bricks were thrown at me.” He said the rock hit him in the leg causing substantial pain.
Robinson, a former police officer himself, said he wanted to see what Denver officers were going through and how they were dealing with the volatile situation. He said he has never seen anything like what he has observed over the last week, and called the unlawful activity “despicable.”
“The level of violence and destruction that we’ve seen in the last five days is unacceptable,” he said. The new Manager of Safety said he has seen complaints on social media and from text messages regarding how Denver police have dealt with the violence. He says complaints will be reviewed and investigated, but from his point of view, the vast majority of DPD conduct has been professional and above board.
”When I was out in the field, every action I saw was appropriate.” He said police only escalated their responses when violence from rioters had escalated. But he emphasized what he saw was extremely limited.
Ultimately, he said, the picture is larger than the street skirmishes that have dominated the news.
“The conversation should be how to make sure George Floyd doesn’t happen here.”
Robinson, who is half Panamanian and half African-American, says he understands the frustration that has boiled over on the streets.
“I experienced a lot of racism in my life,” he said.
He recounted how, as a 5th grader, he had a racist teacher.
“She told the kids I was black, and they shouldn’t play with me. People did things to me that no child should have to go through, because of the color of my skin.”
He said the discrimination continued in high school.
“I mean my first day of school in high school, a little kid came up to me and told me ‘my parents told me not to play with your kind,’ and this was my first day of high school.”
He said he had to seek counseling while in college to address the racism he experienced as a child.
Even this week, when he and his wife celebrated their six year wedding anniversary in a suburban park with a picnic, “The first conversation we had is, ‘Should we be at this park?’ or ‘You think we’re going to have some problems because of the color of our skin?'”
He said those personal experiences, combined with what has happened in Denver over the last week, show deep racial divides that need to be bridged.
“I want to get to a place where we don’t have this conversation,” said Robinson.