DENVER (CBS4) – Denver city and police leaders on Monday said they’d move forward with plans to re-work the police department policies and focus on five areas hit hard by crime.
“That we do have work to do, and the killing and treating of people differently because of the color of their skin and their economic status will no longer be tolerated,” said Denver Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson. “I speak for a majority of those in law enforcement when I say we want to and we need to stand in the gap to make lasting improvements to a system that has historically maintained disproportionate bias toward people that look like me.”
Robinson, police Chief Paul Pazen and Mayor Michael Hancock addressed the city’s plans after the release of a task force study with 112 recommendations for improving police, the courts, jails and social services.
In one of the neighborhoods where police say they will increase enforcement and partner with the community more to fight crime, an African American officer off-duty commented about how he sees things.
“We have to come to the table objectively and I don’t think that’s being done. So I don’t think officers are getting a fair shake,” he said.
The officer declined to share his name for our story. He’s worried that more officers in the high crime area around Peoria Street and East 47th Avenue will not be perceived as helping.
“I think officers will be perceived in a negative aspect. They’ll be looked at as they are going to harm someone, they’re looking to do injustice to people.”
To the question of whether there’s reason to believe police are by nature racist, the answer was, “I don’t think so by nature, because you have racism across the board. You have African Americans who are racist … I think the thing that is affecting people is where is your integrity, where is your personal honor you see … If I came from a neighborhood and I didn’t have a lot of interaction with minorities, then when I look at a minority I might not be able to distinguish there is a difference. So it’s a lot of not knowing each other, not understanding each other. You see and the stereotypes.”
Police, he believes, are in an atmosphere of condemnation with the quick judgment of social media and easy amplification of incidents. On restoring public faith in officers, he sees a two way street.
“There’s been so much confidence from the public in law enforcement that has been destroyed, it’s not going to happen overnight. But at the same time you’re still facing a battle of being scrutinized, of being criticized, of being convicted before we’ve even gone to court.”
He felt faith in policing will take time to restore and cannot be accomplished simply.
“I can’t sit here and say you can fix it. It’s not going to be an overnight fix because it didn’t happen overnight … Where we are now as a society didn’t happen yesterday, it didn’t happen last year. This happened over time.”